POGO tax collection decreases as Chinese workers leave PH due to COVID-19

Recent tax collections from Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) are significantly lower compared to those accumulated before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) official.

The BIR reasoned that Chinese workers have started leaving the country as POGO establishments fold up due to COVID-19.

While actual figures are yet to be finalized, Revenue Deputy Commissioner Arnel Guballa added that many Chinese workers flee the country also because of canceled visas.

As of September 8, the number of registered POGOs listed on the website of state-run Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) went down to 55 from the initial count of 60 at the start of 2020.

Out of the said number, only 29 were given the authorization to resume operations in the country due to taxation issues.

PAGCOR’s latest data also shows that 99 accredited local gaming agents and service providers had been allowed to resume operations.

Prior to the pandemic, there were around 218 service providers with 130,000 to 150,000 POGO employees who are mostly Chinese.

The operations of POGOs in the country have since been controversial as the industry has been linked to illegal activities like human trafficking, drugs, and tax evasion.

President Rodrigo Duterte, meanwhile, has repeatedly defended POGOs, even claiming that their operations are ‘clean,’ despite calls from senators and other government officials to ban the said establishments in the Philippines.

PNP denies Human Rights Watch’s report saying that EJKs grew by 50% during lockdown

The Philippine National Police (PNP) denied the claims of Human Rights Watch’s report stating that cases of extrajudicial killings in the country increased by 50% during the COVID-19 lockdown.

PNP Chief for Administration PLtGen. Guillermo Eleazar said that the numbers rose by only 4.9%, contrary to the human right group’s report.

Eleazar then encouraged the public to immediately report members of the PNP who are involved in human rights abuse and violations.

The PNP itself has been repeatedly linked in allegations of human rights violations as policemen are at the forefront of President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal war on drugs.

Local and international human rights organizations have been tagging Duterte’s drug war as a mere anti-poor operation.

Between July 1, 2016 to January 2017 alone, the PNP has killed at least 2,500 individuals under its ‘Oplan Tokhang.’

Duterte slams Western pharmas asking for advance payments for COVID-19 vaccines

President Rodrigo Duterte said that he will prioritize getting vaccines from China or Russia as he slammed pharmaceutical firms from Western countries which are asking for advance payments for yet-to-be-developed COVID-19 vaccines, accusing them that they are all about profit.

Without specifying which firms he’s pertaining to, Duterte explained that the procurement law of the Philippines doesn’t allow the government to spend money on products that are not yet produced.

The president said that if such Western firms have a local office in the Philippines or if their representatives are in the country, he will ‘kick their ass’ and order them to go back to their countries.

In his pre-taped televised nation addresses, Duterte has repeatedly expressed enthusiasm about the COVID-19 vaccine China is developing, adding that Chinese President Xi Jinping has promised him to make the Philippines a priority once the vaccine is ready to be distributed.

The Philippines is also set to conduct the Phase 3 of clinical trials of Russia’s Sputnik-V vaccine from October 2020 to March 2021 which will be funded by the Russian government.

The said human testing led by Russia raised concerns among netizens with some saying that Russia might be using Filipinos as ‘guinea pigs’ or subjects for experimentation for their vaccine.

DOH, dagdag-bawas pa rin ang paandar sa COVID-19 statistics ng Pilipinas

Walong buwan matapos mai-report ang unang kaso ng COVID-19 sa Pilipinas at kalahating taon na sa ilalim ng community quarantine, ngunit tila hindi pa rin gamay ng Department of Health (DOH) ang pagtatala ng COVID-19 statistics sa bansa.

Nito lang Setyembre 12, nakapagtala ang Pilipinas ng pinakamataas na single-day COVID-19 death toll na pumalo sa 186. Ang mas nakakaalarma rito, 126 sa bilang na nabanggit ay naka-recover na, ayon sa unang ulat ng DOH.

Bukod dito, dalawang pasyente ng COVID-19 na una na ring isinali ng DOH sa bilang ng mga naka-recover na ay nananatili palang infected ng nasabing sakit o active cases pa rin.

Ayon sa mga ulat, mula Hunyo 12 hanggang Agosto 21, mahigit 4,000 cases mula sa COVID-19 statistics ng Pilipinas ang inalis ng DOH matapos makumpirma na ang mga ito ay dulot ng encoding errors o mga naulit na datos lamang.

Depensa ng DOH, kailangan daw nila ng tulong at kooperasyon mula sa mga local government units (LGUs) na hinikayat nilang i-report agad ang COVID-19 tally sa kanilang mga lugar para raw maayos ang pagrereport ng ahensya.

Isinisi rin ng ahensya ang late reporting ng mga COVID-19-accredited labs na isa rin sa mga dahilan ng discrepancies sa COVID-19 tally ng bansa.

Maliban sa magulong datos ng COVID-19, isa pang problema ng DOH ngayon ay kawalan ng maayos na sistema para sa contact tracing na isa sana sa mga pinakamabisang paraan para ma-contain ang pagdami ng kaso.

Ang mga isyu na ito ng DOH ay kabilang sa mga dahilan kung bakit maraming opisyal ng gobyerno at mga propesyunal sa larangan ng medisina ang nananawagan kay DOH Secretary Francsico Duque III na magbitiw na sa pwesto bilang pinuno ng ahensya dahil sa kanyang “incompetence.”

Gayunpaman, nananatili pa rin si Duque sa kanyang posisyon at patuloy pa rin siyang ipinagtatanggol ni Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte.

Robredo: Pondo sa Bayanihan 2, hindi sapat para sa COVID-19 response

Kumpara sa pondo na inilalaan ng ibang bansa para sa COVID-19 response, maliit at hindi raw sapat ang pondo na itinalaga ng Duterte administration sa Bayanihan to Heal As One Act o ang Bayanihan 2, ayon kay Vice President Leni Robredo.

Dagdag ni Robredo, ang P165.5-billion na gagastusin para sa mga programa para maaksyunan ang COVID-19 sa bansa ay kulang lalo na’t grabe ang pangangailangan ng mga mamamayan.

Sa ilalim ng Bayanihan 2 na pinirmahan ni Duterte nitong Setyembre 11, ang nasabing pondo ay gagamitin para tustusan ang mga programa ng gobyerno tulad ng pagpapaunlad ng healthcare, suporta para sa agriculture sector at cash-for-work program, ayuda para sa mga industriya na lubhang naapektuhan ng pandemya, at pambili ng COVID-19 vaccines.

Sa kabuuan, nasa P140 billion ang nakahanda na para mai-release at magamit sa iba-ibang programa habang ang natitirang P25.5 billion ay tinatawag na standby funds.

Sinabi pa ng bise presidente na bagama’t kailangang gumastos nang mabilisan para matulungan ang mga Pilipino, dapat daw ay gastusin ang pondo nang tama.

Matatandaang ang naunang Bayanihan to Heal As One Act na pinirmahan ng pangulo noong Marso ay nasangkot din sa mga anomalya, kabilang na ang iregularidad sa Social Amelioration Program ng Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) at paggamit ng pondo ng Department of Health (DOH).
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Malaysia bars long-time pass holders from PH due to COVID-19

Malaysia issued an order that prohibits long-term pass holders in the Philippines, India, and Indonesia from entering Malaysia due to coronavirus-related concerns effective Monday (September 7), the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) announced.

The latest travel restrictions stemmed from the Malaysian government’s “serious concerns over the recent increase in the number of confirmed, imported COVID-19 cases detected at Malaysia’s international points of entry of Malaysia among travelers proceeding” from the countries mentioned.

Malaysia’s order will affect students, expatriates, professional visit pass holders, permanent resident pass holders, Malaysia My Second Home pass holders, and spouse visa holders, including their children.

Meanwhile, diplomats and their dependents are allowed to go to Malaysia as long as they obtain approval from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Immigration Department of Malaysia before their trip, the agency pointed out.

The Philippines has the most number of COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia, with 237,365. It is followed by Indonesia with 194,109 infections.

 

Unemployment rate sa Pilipinas, bumaba nitong Hulyo

Bumaba sa 10% ang unemployment rate ng Pilipinas ngayong Hulyo kumpara sa 17.7% noong Abril, ang pinakamataas na unemployment rate sa kasaysayan ng bansa, ayon sa datos ng pamahalaan.

Gayunpaman, katumbas pa rin ito ng nasa 4.6 milyong mga Pilipinong walang trabaho dahil sa economic impact ng COVID-19.

Bago ang krisis na dulot ng pandemya, nasa 5.3% lang ang unemployment rate sa bansa noong Enero o katumbas ng 2.4 milyong tao. Hindi ito malayo sa datos noong Abril 2019 na nasa 5.1% o 2.3 milyong tao ang walang trabaho.

Ang National Capital Region (NCR) ang may pinakamataas na unemployment rate na nasa 15.8%, samantalang pinakamababa naman sa Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) na nasa 3.8% lamang.

Kabilang sa limang industriya na may pinakamaraming nawalan ng trabaho ay arts, entertainment at recreation, accommodation and food services, information and communications, fishing and aquaculture, at professional, scientific, and technical activities.

Isa sa mga malaking dahilan ng paglobo ng unemployment rate ay ang quarantine period na idineklara ng gobyerno kung saan limitadong industriya lamang ang maaring magbukas at iilang awtorisadong tao lamang ang maaring lumabas ng bahay upang maiwasan ang pagkalat ng COVID-19.

Mga sementeryo sa Maynila, isasara sa Undas para iwas-hawaan ng COVID-19

Idineklara ni Manila City Mayor Francisco “Isko” Moreno Domagoso sa bisa ng Executive Order No. 38 ang pagsasara ng mga sementeryo sa Maynila mula Oktubre 31 hanggang Nobyembre 3 para maiwasan ang pagkalat ng COVID-19 dulot ng pagdasa ng mga tao.

Payo ni Domagoso sa mga taga-Maynila, ngayon pa lamang ay bisitahin na nila ang kanilang mga yumaong mahal sa buhay. Aniya, ibabalik naman sa dati ang lahat at maipagpapatuloy pa rin ang tradisyon ng Undas kapag wala na ang banta ng COVID-19.

Humingi rin ng pasensiya at paunawa ang alkalde sa mga nasasakupan at sinabing maging siya ay apektado ng mga adjustments dulot ng ‘new normal.’

Kasama ang public at private memorial parks, cemeteries, at columbaries sa buong Maynila sa isasara sa mga nasabing petsa.

Tinatayang 1.5 million na tao ang bumibisita sa Manila North Cemetery na may 105,837 grave sites, habang 800,000 na tao naman ang pumupunta sa South Cemetery tuwing panahon ng Undas.

Nakasaad din sa executive order na interment at cremation services lamang para sa mga hindi COVID-19 ang dahilan ng pagpanaw ang pinapayagan sa mga petsang nabanggit ngunit dapat pa rin sumunod sa safety guidelines and protocols.

PH still a COVID-19 hotspot in Western Pacific despite flattening the curve

Although University of the Philippines experts have mentioned that the country has already “flattened the curve,” the country still emerged as a COVID-19 hotspot in the Western Pacific region as infections continue to rise.

The Department of Health (DOH) reported 3,714 new cases, bringing the national total to 232,072. At least 160,549 patients have recovered from the illness, with 29% of the total cases remaining active. The COVID-19 fatalities also climbed to 3,737 after 49 more deaths were reported, while Metro Manila remains the epicenter of the outbreak in the country.

The DOH added that the Philippines has conducted 2.7 million tests since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis. There are 113 operational laboratories in the country at the moment.

The global death toll now exceeds 869,000, with more than 26.3 million cases recorded in 188 countries and regions since last December. More than half of all patients worldwide — over 17.53 million — have recovered, according to figures compiled by the US’ Johns Hopkins University.

Bayanihan 2: A path to recovery or yet another looming wave of corruption?

Lawmakers claim that they are expediting the passage of the Bayanihan 2 bill due to two good reasons: to provide the Philippines the needed funds to boost recovery and to hasten COVID-19 countermeasures.

Despite of these good intentions, many are still worried whether the law will be used according to its objectives, or it will be just another opportunity for corrupt government officials to pursue their personal interests under the guise of “emergency powers.”

Critics cannot be blamed, though. Especially given that the preceding Bayanihan to Heal As One was linked to various controversies, particularly the way how money was handled.

These issues include the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) Social Amelioration Program (SAP) in which duplicate names from poor families reflected on the masterlist, and Department of Health’s (DOH) alleged misuse of funds under Secretary Francisco Duque III.

There’s also the fact that while the first Bayanihan law, signed six months ago, was aimed to aid the people affected by the pandemic, a large percentage of Filipinos still remain hopeless, unemployed, and clueless as to whether the country will ever find its way at the end of this health crisis.

The previous law required President Rodrigo Duterte to provide a weekly report for the citizens to be aware about the status of its COVID-19 response.

The people, however, just repeatedly saw on Duterte’s late night, pre-taped televised addresses the same things over and over again, with the president blabbering about things that are irrelevant to COVID-19.

The reports seemingly failed to provide the Filipino people a concrete assurance that every peso of the P275 billion fund was used accordingly.

The Bayanihan 2, meanwhile, requires Duterte to submit a monthly report to the Congress and to the Commission on Audit (COA) on the actual accomplishments of government programs, strategies, and plans related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Whether the upcoming reports will be made available for the public in the spirit of transparency, is one of the many things that remain uncertain.

The country has entered its sixth month of the quarantine and needless to say, what Filipinos need since the very start of the COVID-19 crisis is a government that’s proactive and pro-people, and not officials who think they could pursue personal interests all while the nation is struggling.

What the people demand from the Duterte administration are actually just the bare minimum — competent governance, concrete plans, transparency, and delicadeza. The Filipinos don’t want and don’t deserve any more of the government’s misplaced priorities.