WASHINGTON — World Trade Organization negotiations over intellectual property waivers for COVID-19 vaccines is a chance for the divided trade body to make itself relevant to the world’s needs, says United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai.
Earlier the administration of US President Joe Biden showed full support on waiver of international property rights “in service of ending this pandemic” as “extraordinary measures” are needed to handle the health crisis.
Speaking to the House Ways and Means Committee, Tai says she is committed to entering negotiations that take into account concerns from all sides, including drug companies, in a report by Reuters.
“The WTO has not got a record of moving quickly, or getting to ‘yes,’ across 164 members who must all agree, very often,” says Tai.
“This is the opportunity for the WTO to show its relevance for mankind.”
Two days in a row, Tai has been hearing criticism from Republican lawmakers regarding the intellectual property rights waiver, that it will give critical biopharmaceutical technology to China, Russia, and other strategic rivals while failing to increase vaccine supplies. (JSR/JuanManila)
Travelers who are vaccinated against the coronavirus or those who recovered from infection may avoid testing and quarantine altogether when entering the country, unless they come from areas where variants of concern prevail
BERLIN — A change to existing rules was just approved by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Cabinet. Said change involves non-vaccinated individuals may end their quarantine early if their tests show negative results.
German media report that country doctors have come under growing pressure from individuals who want to go on a summer vacation. They want to be given vaccines even when they are not yet entitled to have them.
Meanwhile, Health minister Jens Spahn says the country expects to roll out its digital immunity certificate by the end of June, to make it easier to prove a person has been fully vaccinated.
According to reports, the certificate may be stored in a mobile application that can be used instead of the yellow World Health Organization vaccine booklet. The goal is for the certificate to be compatible with a system of vaccine certification that is being developed by the European Union. (JSR/JuanManila)
President Rodrigo Duterte relaxes quarantine status but cautions the public to continue with restraints. Businesses will continue to operate at minimum capacity level as new cases reported daily are still over 5,000.
MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte declares downshift in quarantine status starting 15 May until the end of May.
The president’s approval comes amid the continued reports of new cases daily still over 5,000.
Restraints remain despite a downshift in quarantine status. Essential travel within the national capital region bubble—Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal—still prevails, as according to presidential spokesperson Harry Roque Jr, “some curbs will remain.”
Within the bubble, public transportation will continue at minimum seating capacity. In-door dining services are up to 20 percent while dining al fresco may fill up to 50 percent seat capacity.
Outdoor non-contact sports, games, scrimmages, and personal care services not requiring face mask removal are allowed at 30 percent capacity.
Tourist spots are at 30 percent capacity with strict observance of minimum public health protocols.
“Further allowed in the NCR Plus are specialized markets of the Department of Tourism (DOT) following the minimum public health standards and implementation of protocols and restrictions as set by the DOT,” says Roque.
Meanwhile, religious gatherings, including necrological services for deaths the causes of which are not COVID-19 are allowed at 10% venue capacity.
Individuals between ages 18 to 65 may leave their homes in GCQ areas with the heightened restrictions, says Roque.
Other areas under GCQ from May 15 are:
Cordillera Administrative Region
Region 2 (Cagayan Valley):
Region 4-A (CALABARZON)
Region 4-B (MIMAROPA)
Region 10 (Northern Mindanao)
Region 11 (Davao)
Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao
Lanao del Sur
Duterte says Santiago City in Isabela, Quirino, Ifugao, and Zamboanga City will be under MECQ, while rest of the Philippines will be under modified GCQ.
The country has suffers the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in Southeast Asia. Overall, the Philippines has tallied 1,124,724 cases, along with 18,821 deaths as of press time. (JSM/JuanManila)
MANILA — A mass gathering at a Caloocan resort venue has caused Police Major Harold Aaron Melgar, Caloocan Sub-Station 9 commander, his job. The closure of the Gubat sa Ciudad Resort in Brgy. Bagumbong was imposed for failing to observe strict health protocols even while the MECQ (modified enhanced community quarantine) prevails.
Viral photos of the pool party appeared on social media despite strict rules against public gatherings.
PNP Police Gen. Guillermo Eleazar says cases against the resort owner and the chairman of Brgy. Bagumbong are now being prepared.
“This should serve as a lesson and warning again to all others, not just the establishment but including the barangay chairman. They need to find a way to make sure this won’t happen again,” says Eleazar.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año warns that failure on the part of local officials to enforce IATF resolutions may lead to charges filed against them for dereliction of duty based on Article 208 of the Revised Penal Code. (JSM/JuanManila)
MANILA — Today oil firms are raising pump prices. Oil firms say prices are up per liter by ₱0.75 for gasoline, ₱0.70 for diesel, and ₱0.70 for ker0sene.
Chevron Philippines Inc., marketer for Caltex in the Philippines, says its price adjustments took effect at 12:01 AM.
Petron Corporation, Petro Gazz, Phoenix Petroleum Philippines Inc., Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp., PTT Philippines, and Seaoil Philippines implemented their adjustments at 6 AM.
Price adjustment for Unioil Philippines Inc. started at 6:01 AM while Cleanfuel says its pumps will be adjusted by 4:01 PM.
Meanwhile, Reuters reports that global oil prices recorded their second weekly revenue despite a slowly recovering global economy.
Pump price increases per liter last week were ₱0.20 for gasoline, ₱0.35 for diesel, and ₱0.35 for kerosene.
Year-to-date adjustments show a net increase per liter of ₱7.80 for gasoline, ₱6.05 for diesel, and ₱5.30 for kerosene.
Oil firms are raising pump prices for the fourth consecutive week today. (JSM/JuanManila)
SINGAPORE — An annual event since 2018, the Bloomberg New Economy Forum originally scheduled in China on November this year will be moved to Singapore. According to Bloomberg founder Michael Bloomberg, the forum is pulling out from its original plan because of the “very concerning” conditions journalists face in China, the Financial Times reports.
Scheduled on 16 to 19 November, the event is limited to 400 participants with agenda focusing on economic sustainability, the COVID-19 pandemic, and how countries can recover from its impact.
Bloomberg also cites logistics as one of the reason to hold the event in Singapore, the Financial Times reports.
Wang Wenbin, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman says he was not aware of the situation. He says in China “journalists’ legal right to interview is fully safeguarded by the law.”
In March, however, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC) said Beijing had used coronavirus prevention measures, intimidation, and visa curbs to limit foreign reporting in 2020, which paved way to a “rapid decline in media freedom.”
Also, last year, Chinese authorities detained journalists as Haze Fan, a Chinese national working for Bloomberg News, and Cheng Lei, an Australian citizen working for Chinese state media, on suspicion of endangering national security. (JSR/JuanManila)
MANILA — Export-import recovery in March show double-digit growth for the Philippines, according to its Statistics Authority (PSA).
PSA data show the country’s export earnings in March grew 31.6 percent to $6.68 billion, while imports grew 16.6 percent to $9.1 billion.
First quarter records show that exports grew 7.6 percent to $17.56 billion, while imports grew 3.2 percent to $25.56 billion.
In March, the top 10 major commodity groups in terms of value of exports recorded annual increases led by other mineral products, which grew 195.8 percent. It is followed by chemicals at 159.8 percent and other manufactured good at 115.7 percent.
Exports to the People’s Republic of China (PROC) is the highest export value amounting to $1.07 billion or a share of 16 percent to the total exports during the month.
In the top 5 major export trading partners with export values and percent shares to the total exports: (1) the United States of America, accounting for $992.93 million or 14.9 percent of the country’s total export; Japan for$984.18 million or 14.7 percent of the total; Hong Kong with $835.07 million or 12.5 percent; and Singapore, $347.01 million or 5.2 percent.
The growth in imports may be attributed to eight of the top 10 major commodity groups led by other food and live animals, which posted a 30.9-percent growth.
This is followed by telecommunication equipment and electrical machinery, which grew 28 percent as well as mineral fuels, lubricants and related materials that grew 21.4 percent.
PROC is also the country’s biggest supplier of imported goods valued at $2.13 billion, or 23.4 percent of the total imports in March 2021.
The top 5 major import trading partners are Japan ($887.15 million, or 9.8 percent of the total), Republic of Korea ($663.24 million or 7.3 percent), Indonesia ($656.64 million or 7.2 percent), and USA ($618.01 million or 6.8 percent). (JSM/JuanManila)
MANILA — The World Bank’s methodology in conducting its Doing Business (DB) survey has been flagged by the Anti-Red Tape Authority (Arta) and seeks for a review of their method.
There were “inconsistencies with the results of the customer satisfaction survey by agencies against the assessment of the DB respondents,” says Arta Director General Jeremiah Belgica.
“It may have emanated from the fact that the persons who responded to the WB Survey are not the same persons transacting with the agencies/LGU [local government units],” he points out.
“It may be that the respondents to the survey of WB are officials of the Law/Accounting firms, while persons transacting with the agencies/LGUs are the liaison officers or processors or clerks or sometimes messengers of the law/accounting firms,” he further explains.
Belgica underscores the importance of having “clear distinction between the preparation time of the applicant and the processing time of the agencies” as well.
Belgica earlier expressed worries that Arta’s efforts in certain areas—Starting a Business, Dealing with Construction Permits, Registering Property, and Enforcing Contract—would not be fully recognized.
Arta says it has elevated its concerns to the WB since last year. The agency is able to move forward with its goal of streamlining and reengineering of Government processes and enforcing zero-contact policy despite the pandemic, says Belgica.
These are done, he says, through accessible online Government transactions and mandatory setting up of electronic business one-stop shops (e-BOSS) in local governments, among others.
Arta signed a joint memorandum circular with several agencies last month, including the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), ordering LGUs to launch their own eBoss by 17 June. The eBoss is expected to facilitate online submission of business permit applications; digital payment options; and issuance of electronic versions of permits, licenses, or clearances.
However, as of 14 April only 39 percent or 593 LGUs out of the total 1,516 have automated their business permit and licensing system, according to Government data.
Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez says the accelerated shift to digitalization amid lockdown protocols are imposed as part of Government’s bid to curb rising Covid-19 cases.
“The community lockdowns, limited movement and accessibility, added financial pressures, and drastic changes in work arrangements—these all resulted in major transformations in the business landscape,” says Lopez. “To adapt to the pandemic’s unprecedented crisis, we have to broaden our scope in digitalization and utilize the opportunities from the rising digital economy.”
The Philippines scored 62.8 last year in the DB survey, positioning the country at the 95th spot. This is an improvement when the country garnered in 57.68 in 2019 and at 124th rank out of 190 countries.
In the Southeast Asian region, the Philippines is ranked 7th, lagging behind Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam and Indonesia. It is ahead of Cambodia, Lao PDR and Myanmar. (JSM/JuanManila)
MANILA — A new executive order on tariffs on pork imports is expected to be issued next week upon the completion of the tariffs recommendations of the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) Board.
The Department of Agriculture (DA) is to release a new suggested retail price for imported pork to reflect the adjusted tariff rates, which would be 5 percentage points higher than what was prescribed in Duterte’s EO 128, says Agriculture Secretary William Dar.
Despite the adjustments both in pork tariffs and proposed minimum access volume (MAV) plus mechanism, Dar says the compromise is still a “win-win arrangement for everyone.”
“Of course, our goal of pulling down pork prices to almost what is possible, given the lowered tariffs, is there,” he says.
Meanwhile, Meat Importers and Traders Association (Mita) President Jesus C. Cham confirms the current SRP on imported pork may increase by at least 5 percent, but would still remain cheaper compared to fresh locally produced meat.
The ₱300 per kilogram SRP, for example, on imported pork liempo/belly may now range between ₱315 per kilogram and ₱320 per kilogram depending on the computation and analysis made by the DA, Cham says.
The tariff rates on pork imports would be increased by 5 percentage points; its initial proposal for minimum access volume (MAV) of 404,000 metric tons is lowered to 254,210 MT.
With the compromise, the in-quota tariff rate for pork imports until 07 July would be 10 percent while out-quota would be 20 percent for out-quota from the initial lowered rates of five percent and 15 percent, respectively.
The tariff rates for the last 9 months of EO 128 or from 08 July to 07 April 2022 would be increased by 5 percentage points to 15 percent for in-quota and 25 percent for out-quota imports.
The Philippine Association of Meat Processors Inc. (Pampi) urged Duterte “to issue the amendatory executive order as soon as possible.”
“Pampi is pleased to note that when leaders in Government and the private sector allow reason to prevail, a rational solution to a controversy can be reached without sacrificing the interest of any party,” says the group said in a statement. (JSM/JuanManila)