MANILA — Despite an agreement between PLDT, Inc. and DITO Telecommunity Corporation, senators are still wary of cyber threats and attacks against the country’s internet infrastructure, including those posed by state-sponsored hacking groups.
Even National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. acknowledges cyber threats against the country.
“We are aware of possible threats. We know that in cyberspace there are third-party operators or unknown hackers who could always disturb our systems,” Esperon admits before the Senate public services committee when it tackled the franchise renewal of China-backed DITO telecom company in December last year.
But Senator Grace Poe laments over an apparent lack of a proper plan to protect the country from cyberattacks.
“This is the problem we’re talking about. The franchise of Dito Telecommunity. One of the issues being brought forth is how do we protect ourselves knowing that a certain percentage of ownership is owned by a foreign national,” Poe asks.
She goes on: “How can the Government assure us that they’ve given a fair assessment of the safety to our sovereignty if we don’t even have a proper cybersecurity group that does the assessment?”
Critics have pointed out that China Telecom Corp. Ltd., one of the listed companies of state-owned China Telecommunications Corporation, has a 40-percent stake at DITO, a conglomerate led by Davao-based businessman Dennis Uy. In 2018, it was selected to become the country’s third telecommunications player.
Security concerns were raised over DITO after the country’s defense department inked a deal allowing the company to build cell sites inside Philippine military camps. (JSM/JuanManila)
MANILA — The country’s second nanosatellite, Maya-2, was launched to the International Space Station (ISS) successfully early Sunday, together with other nanosatellites from Japan and Paraguay at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Station in Virginia, United States.
Maya-2, which was preceded by the country’s first nanosatellite developed under the Philippine Scientific Earth Observation Microsatellite program (PHL-Microsat) and jointly implemented by the University of the Philippines (UP) and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) as part of the Kyushu Institute of Technology-led multinational second Joint Global Multi-nations Birds Satellite (Birds-2), was launched through the S.S. Katherine Johnson Cygnus spacecraft at 1:36 a.m. Sunday, 21 February the current year.
“The DOST is very proud of this achievement. Since DOST started the Philippine Space Technology Development Program in 2014, we have already sent orbiting into space two microsatellites—Diwata-1 and Diwata-2, and the nanosatellite, Maya-1. Maya-2 will soon be deployed from the ISS,” Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Secretary Fortunato De La Peña said in a Viber message.
The program will now transition into the leadership of the newly established Philippine Space Agency which is defined by the Republic Act 11363, or the Philippine Space Act, that was signed into law on 8 August 2019, and intended to manage and operate the Philippine Government’s space program.
“All of us should be proud of the fast progress that the Philippines has made in this area considering that we started only in 2014. There are many aspects of governance which will be assisted by space technologies,” De La Peña added.
Launched in 2018, Maya-1 contains an automatic packet radio service digipeater which can communicate with ham radios. It also carries two cameras that have a wide-angle and narrow-angle lens to capture images and videos for research purposes.
Maya-2, on the other hand, has additional experimental payloads, such as different antenna designs and other materials used for the solar panels of a cube satellite. This nanosatellite will collect data and is equipped with a camera for image and video capture, an automatic packet reporting system message digipeater (APRS-DP), attitude determination, and control units for active attitude stabilization and control demonstrations, Perovskite solar cells, and Latchup-detection chip.
DoST’s Advanced Science & Technology Institute (ASTI) and the University of the Philippines Diliman’s Electrical and Electronics Engineering Institute, Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology, Department of Geodetic Engineering, and the National Institute of Physics, have been the implementers of these satellite development projects with assistance from three Japanese Universities—Hokkaido University, Tohoku University and Kyushu Institute of Technology.
The succeeding microsatellites Diwata-3 and Diwata-4 and succeeding nanosatellites are now in various stages of development, De La Peña likewise added. (JSM/JuanManila)
Featured image: Maya 2 with Maya 1, an artist’s rendition
MANILA — Socio-economic planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua declares there is no more need for Congress to pass a third stimulus package when other measures meant to drive economic recovery are to be fully implemented.
“’Yung Bayanihan III sa tingin ko, hindi na kailangan kung buksan na natin ang ekonomiya. And pinaka-epektibo at cost-effective na paraan para ibalik ang consumer confidence ay ’yung pagbukas ng ekonomiya nakita natin sa datos (I think Bayanihan III is no longer needed if we will further reopen the economy, which is the most efficient and cost-effective way to boost consumer confidence),” Chua says.
On Friday, 19 February, House Speaker Lord Allan Jay Q. Velasco announced that the House of Representatives is “prepared to pass” House Bill No. 8628 or Bayanihan to Arise as One Act (Bayanihan III), which allocates ₱420 billion for programs such as cash handouts, wage subsidies, and financial assistance to hard-hit sectors.
Meanwhile, the newly-signed RA No. 11523 or the FIST Act, which covers the establishment of asset management companies that will absorb the bad loans from banks, has not yet been implemented as rules and regulations are still being drafted.
Chua says in a radio interview on Friday that another stimulus measure such as Bayanihan III is no longer needed if the country’s lockdown will be further eased, allowing the economy to recover faster. (JSM/JuanManila)
Featured image: National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) chief Karl Kendrick T. Chua
LAPU-LAPU CITY — In a rare display of unity and rising above political partisanship, the Lapu-Lapu City Council unanimously approves a resolution condemning the lyrics of the song “Panalo” by Ez Mil. The council pressed the rapper to rectify his misdeed and issue a public apology addressed to the residents of this highly urbanized city south of Manila.
Lapu-Lapu City officials and Oponganons (Opon is the old name of Lapu-Lapu City) were earlier shocked and enraged upon hearing the song, the lyrics of which goes
Nanalo na ako nung una pa
na pinugutan si Lapu sa Mactan
At lahat ay nasaktan na nalaman
nila na pinatay ang kanilang bayani
sa karagatan ng bansa na pag-aari
The resolution states that the song was performed by Miller, popularly known as Ez Mil on Wish USA Bus FM radio, a music platform based in Los Angeles California. It further notes that Miller’s uploaded music video garnered more than 27 million views on YouTube where most have no idea about the inaccurate lyrics.
The resolution asking Ez Mil for his public apology and eventual correction of his “inaccurate lyrics” that besmirched the honor of Lapu-Lapu as a national hero was finally approved in the city council’s regular session on Thursday, 18 February.
It can be recalled that last 9 February, the city council in their special session deferred the proposed resolution of Councilor Jan Vincent de la Serna condemning the lyrics of the song “Panalo” of the rapper that greatly mocked Lapu-Lapu.
During their 9 February special session, vice-mayor Celedonio “Celsi” Sitoy succumbed to the pressure of the majority councilors and reset the tackling of the Dela Serna resolution in their next regular session on 18 February. (JSM/JuanManila)
Featured image: Ez Mill belting out the “inaccurate lyrics” on Lapu-Lapu who was declared by President Rodrigo Duterte as Filipino hero on 27 April 2017, the date the Battle of Mactan happened. From thereon, 27 April 27 is dedicated to the first Filipino hero who defeated foreign rule.
MANILA — Government repatriation efforts for Filipinos abroad have reached close to half a million individuals amid the global health crisis the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) says.
Data from the country’s labor department show that as of last week, a total of 447,076 Filipino migrant workers abroad have returned to their respective home regions or provinces since May 2020 after most companies around the world have either decreased their business operations because of the lockdowns and quarantine restrictions or retrenched employees due to Covid-19 crisis.
It may be recalled that the Duterte administration began repatriating OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) affected by the pandemic in the middle of last year.
DOLE’s figures show that, so far, the highest number of repatriated Filipinos was recorded from 29 June until 26 July last year at 41,233; followed by May 15 to 31, 2020 with 33,924 and June 1 to 28, 2020 at 33,194.
The figures in months from 27 July to February 2021, however, did not exceed 18,000 repatriates.
For this year, on 20 February, only 883 were sent home to their provinces—the least number of OFWs that have been assisted back to their homes. Data covering 4 January to 20 February show the biggest number of OFWs that have reunited with their families for this year, as recorded from 25 to 31 January at 9,953, followed by 11 to 17 January with 9,376.
The returning workers were transported back to their home regions via air, sea, and land transportations provided by the Government to aid OFWs—deemed as the country’s new breed heroes for the millennium—started by Senator Christopher Go in the previous year under the so-called Balik Probinsya Program. (JSM/JuanManila)
The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed to CNN that Russian authorities have detected what is believed to be “human infection with avian influenza H5N8.”
Russia reported to WHO of the possible strain. “If confirmed, this would be first time H5N8 has infected people, ” says a WHO Europe spokesperson.
According to preliminary information, the reported cases were workers exposed to bird flocks. Said workers were “asymptomatic and no onward human-to-human transmission was reported,” says the spokesperson.
On a televised briefing, meanwhile, Dr. Anna Popova, head of Russia’s Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Well-being, says that the strain had been detected in seven poultry workers in the south of the country, Russian news agency TASS reported.
While no confirmation has been released yet from the WHO, Russian health authorities are in discussion with national authorities to gather more information and “assess the public health impact” of the incident. As avian flu usually affects only birds, there are reportedly many strains of it.
Most cases of human infection are caused by contact with infected poultry or surfaces that are contaminated with infected bird excretions: saliva, nasal secretions, or feces.
In 2014 the H5N8 outbreak infected poultry farms in Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. (JSM/JuanManila)
MANILA — Credit card owners are advised to be more vigilant as card scams have increased by 29% in 2020. The period form April to November of last year shows the surge in credit card shams was up 29% compared to 2019, according to the Credit Card Association of the Philippines (CCAP).
Fraudulent card activities have become more rampant since the pandemic-induced lockdowns. Most sham acts reported took place via remote and other digital payment channels. The CCAP said that the criminal act proliferated when payments shifted from card-present to card-not-present such as remote payments and other digital payments.
“Fraud happens more often in cyberspace, given that it is easier to facilitate there. It does away with the need to secure a physical card and more importantly, it is a safer option for the fraudsters because of the anonymity that the internet provides,” says CCAP executive director Alex Ilagan in an advisory.
Types of fraud
One type of prevalent fraud, CCAP reports, is an account takeover. This involves acquiring a physical card or its details along with the cardholder’s one-time password (OTP) to complete online transactions. Scammers and fraudsters employ social engineering techniques to deceive cardholders into disclosing their personal information and card details. According to the credit card group, these criminals usually pretend to be representatives of a bank, a phone company, or even an government agency.
Phishing scams are also on the rise as digital transactions have been gaining ground for its convenience. The usual phishing technique is an email that looks like it comes from the cardholder’s bank. Emails like this have subjects that range from “A New Device Log-in,” to “Credit Card Upgrade,” etc. and their goal is to get the cardholder’s card details and online banking credentials.
CCAP works with partner banks with information drive on types of fraud and how to avoid them. Scam Proof, an online platform MetroBank initiated, where cardholders can find different kinds of fraud, and learn about securing their accounts, and share instances on how they were scammed. Cardholders are advised to review their bank transactions regularly to detect any irregularities in their transactions. Also, be cautious of websites that require card details.
The best way to avoid credit card fraud, says CCAP, is to never share account details through messaging apps and social networks. Writing PIN (personal ID number) and password is also discouraged, as they can get in the wrong hands. (JSM/JuanManila)
MANILA — A total of ₱2.85 billion has been released by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to several line agencies to cover the one month equivalent of the 2018 pension differential of retired military and uniformed personnel (MUP).
According to budget and management secretary Wendel Avisado, the initial release will benefit retired military personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as well as retired uniformed personnel of the Philippine National Police (PNP), Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NMRIA).
The estimated one month equivalent of the 2018 Pension Differential released to the agencies is allocated as follows:
AMOUNT (in thousand pesos)
Department of National Defense
Armed Forces of the Philippines
Department of the Interior and Local Government
Philippine National Police
Bureau of Fire Protection
Bureau of Jail Management and Penology
Department of Transportation
Philippine Coast Guard 28,004
Department of Environment and Natural Resources
National Mapping and Resource Information Authority
“The total requirement to cover the 2018 pension differential of retired MUPs amounts to ₱34.20 billion. This leaves a balance of ₱31.35 billion which is yet to be released subject to the availability of funds and in compliance with applicable rules and regulations,” Avisado clarifies.
“Rest assured that the Department will immediately evaluate and process all special budget requests after satisfying the requirements for the current regular pension and pension arrears as validated by the Commission on Audit,” he says.
It may be recalled that the Pension and Gratuity Fund (PGF) was significantly reduced to ₱152.9 billion from ₱172.9 billion when the General Appropriations Act was passed, affecting the release of the 2018 pension differential of retired MUPs.
“Hence, to ensure the continuous and up-to-date payment of pension, the DBM will continue to prioritize the release of current/regular pension requirements,” Avisado says.
As a final word, the budget chief said that the DBM is committed to fulfilling its mandate of promoting the efficient and effective management of the national budget to support its budget priorities while also ensuring that the needs of the Filipino people, especially of all military and uniformed personnel, are met. (JSM/JuanManila)
CEBU CITY — Another returning overseas Filipino worker (OFW) has tested positive for Covid-19 despite having been vaccinated in Canada, according to a radio report in Cebu.
Citing Dr. Mary Jean Loreche of Department of Health in Central Visayas, the report said the patient who tested Covid-19 positive is a female, aged 25 years, who arrived from Montreal, Canada.
Loreche said the patient received the vaccine developed by Pfizer on January 13 and arrived in Cebu on February 9, where she underwent the subscribed quarantine protocols and then swabbed on 14 February.
However, instead of registering negative, the woman was found to be positive of the virus.
This is the second case of an OFW testing positive for Covid-19 despite getting inoculated abroad, the first one being an OFW from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), who returned home last 25 January.
Loreche had earlier said it remains to be proven if the Covid-19 vaccines developed by several international pharmaceutical firms can actually prevent transmission or infection.
“Sa mga datos ng mga bakuna natin . . . it can prevent severe disease, it can prevent clinical disease. Pero to prevent transmission, hindi po clear cut ‘yan kaya hindi po natin masasabi na ikaw, kung nabakunahan ka, hindi ka na makakahawa,” she said.
Meanwhile, a ranking health official who requested anonymity said in an earlier report that vaccines against the virus are not guaranteed to shield anyone from getting the disease but it can ensure the said individual will not have severe symptoms, unlike people who did not receive any jab at all. (JSM/JuanManila)
MANILA — Muntinlupa City representative Rozzano Rufino ‘Ruffy’ Biazon has advised the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) to localize the reopening of businesses in the country depending on which local government units (LGUs) have already rolled out their vaccination programs.
Biazon gave the advice following an earlier call from a member of the University of the Philippines OCTA Research Group (UP-OCTA) that said the government should begin first with the much-awaited Covid-19 vaccine rollout before further relaxing the quarantine and minimum health safety restrictions in Metro Manila in order to avoid a further spike in the number of infections of Covid-19.
OCTA’s Dr. Guido David stressed that Metro Manila should not risk a surge in Covid-19 cases while the government awaits rolling out the expected vaccines because this could delay and scuttle the successful implementation of the government’s vaccination program.
“For Metro Manila, I think it’s too early to risk an MGCQ (modified general community quarantine) at this stage. Especially the vaccine rollout is yet to happen. So, the best thing is to wait first for the vaccine rollout,” Guido said.
Biazon supported this line saying that the vaccination program should be started first before easing restrictions because this would ensure that customers of businesses will be safe as the country continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic.
“The reopening of businesses should be staggered and based on which LGUs have already implemented their respective Covid-19 vaccine plans,” he said in a statement.
“This way, we can ensure that the patrons going to these businesses will not be at risk for infection to the coronavirus and become unknowing vectors,” the solon added.
Added to this, the Muntinlupa lawmaker stressed that the IATF should synchronize the opening of sectors in the economy with that of the Covid-19 vaccine plan for that specific sector.
“We should identify sectors in the economy to open up, and the reopening should be tied in with a vaccination plan for that sector. This will help boost not just immunity, but more importantly, the confidence of consumers to actually patronize those businesses,” Biazon said.
“If we open the businesses without a confidence-building measure such as a vaccination program, the consumer response may not be enough to sustain the overhead cost, as well as lead into another surge of infections,” he further said.
To recall, the IATF earlier allowed the reopening of more businesses like cinemas, museums, and tourist attractions such as theme parks in areas under a general community quarantine (GCQ), including Metro Manila.
However, the mayors of Metro Manila have opted to defer the reopening of cinemas in the region amid continuing concerns over Covid-19.
Malacañan has rescheduled the reopening of cinemas in GCQ areas for 1 March. (JSM/JuanManila)