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Nationwide round-up (11/16/20)

Business groups call for better disaster management, better public-private coordination

BUSINESS groups on Monday made an “urgent” call to improve the country’s disaster management system in the wake of the recent major floodings across Luzon triggered by a series of typhoons. In a joint statement released by the the Management Association of the Philippines and signed by 19 organizations, the private sector groups said steps must be taken to improve the preparedness aspect as well as emergency response. “We express serious concern about the state of our country’s disaster preparedness that could have minimized the untimely deaths of our countrymen, and avoided massive damage and destruction of property,” they said, “But even as we express this concern, we urge our countrymen to move forward in a coordinated and efficient fashion to mitigate the ill-effects of the recent typhoons.” Among their recommended course of action include better public-private partnerships, especially at the local government level, and a nationwide effort to address environment and climate issues.

Vice President Maria Leonor G. Robredo, meanwhile, urged authorities to look into the deadly flooding in Cagayan province, citing that there was “definitely an oversight” given the extent of the damage. “Were they warned enough that there was really danger of heavy floods of this magnitude? We really need an investigation because if we wouldn’t have a formal investigation, the danger that it would happen again, sooner or later, is really there,” Ms. Robredo said in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel. The Palace, on the other hand, asserted that the government did not have any shortcomings in its preparations. “There were no shortcomings but  we will always strive to be better,” Palace Spokesperson Harry L. Roque said in a briefing on Monday. He did acknowledge that while the floods and landslides were triggered heavy rains brought by the series of recent typhoons, other factors such as “climate change, deforestation, and illegal mining” are to blame for the disaster.

In a related development, thousands of workers in areas devastated by typhoons will be given emergency employment, according to the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE). In a virtual briefing on Monday, Labor Assistant Secretary Dominique R. Tutay said they expect to help “between 30,000 to 40,000” workers in the disaster-hit areas. The period of employment will be for 15 days and workers will be paid based on the current daily minimum wage rate of the region they reside in. — Gillian M. Cortez and Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza 

Marikina representative pushes for another stimulus package

A LAWMAKER on Monday urged Congress to pass another stimulus package in response to the economic impact of the coronavirus crisis. “I urge this August chamber, our counterparts in the Senate, and the executive department to come together anew and enact a Bayanihan III,” Marikina 2nd District Rep. Stella Luz A. Quimbo said in her privilege speech during Monday’s session. Ms. Quimbo, an economist who previously taught at the University of the Philippines School of Economics and was a commissioner at the Philippine Competition Commission, said a P413 billion response to a P3.4 trillion economic loss “is clearly not enough,” referring to the funds provided under the first two Bayanihan laws, which cover the government’s coronavirus emergency measures. Ms. Quimbo acknowledged the government’s efforts to gradually ease restrictions to open the economy in the third quarter, but said small businesses continue to struggle. “After months without revenues, while continuing to shoulder operating costs, many businesses are cash strapped. Public transportation has also been severely lacking in urban areas, making it difficult for workers to return to work,” she said. “Hence, the third quarter economic contraction announced last week, the largest.” The Philippine Statistics Authority reported that the Philippine economy contracted by 11.5% in the third quarter, with the industry and services sectors dropping by 17.2% and 10.6%, respectively. Agriculture posted a modest growth of 1.2%. “In my computation, to attain a 5.5% contraction in 2020, our gross domestic product should increase in the fourth quarter… Moving from 5.5% contraction of gross domestic product (GDP) to a 10% contraction means losing an additional 900 billion pesos. So from an expected 2.4-trillion-peso loss, we now stand to lose P3.3 trillion,” Ms. Quimbo said. The solon said a Bayanihan III must incentivize businesses to preserve and restore jobs, provide worker subsidies to pay for coronavirus testing and sick leaves of those who contract the virus, and ensure adequate funding for vaccines. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

Entry of foreign investors still limited to specific visas, BI clarifies

THE Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Monday clarified that foreign investors who are  allowed entry into the country need to hold specific visas. Only foreigners holding visas granted based on Executive Order No. 226 or the Omnibus Investments Code, and those with Special Investor’s Resident Visa (SIRV) issued based on EO 226 may enter the Philippines, Commissioner Jaime H. Morente said in a statement. “Those who will be entering the country under visa types not yet allowed by the IATF (inter-agency task force) will still be restricted,” he said.  SIRVs issued under Executive Order No. 63 in tourist-related projects and tourist establishments are still restricted, Mr. Morente said. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

Health department issues warning on danger of carbon monoxide poisoning from generators

THE Department of Health (DoH) on Monday reminded the public not to use generators indoors to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. The warning was made following reports of such deaths in the Bicol region, where some areas remain without power supply after infrastructure were damaged by the recent series of typhoons. Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire, in a briefing, pointed out that generators emit carbon monoxide, a deadly gas that is odorless and cannot be noticed until symptoms are felt after inhaling. She said generators should be positioned at least 20 feet away from the household and not placed indoors. Typhoon Ulysses (international name: Vamco), the latest to hit the country, affected a large part of the norther island of Luzon, including Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Rizal, Laguna, and Quezon province. The National Electrification Administration reported that as of Nov. 15, power supply has been either partially or fully restored in 195 out of 476 affected cities and municipalities across several regions in Luzon. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

VP again chides President over dirty joke at calamity briefing

THE President should focus on things that are “really urgent,” Vice President Maria Leonor G. Robredo said on Monday, after the country’s leader made a dirty joke at a calamity briefing. “When we give attention to other things, we tend to communicate the wrong things… If we’re going through something really serious, it is also very important for us to communicate how urgent a particular matter is,” said Ms. Robredo, who heads the opposition. During a briefing in Pili, Camariñes Norte, Mr. Duterte poked fun at a local official — whom he described as a “friend” — for having a lot of women. This was not the first time Mr. Duterte made a sexual innuendo behind his presidential podium. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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