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Nationwide round-up (01/27/21)

Essential workers to be included in priority list for COVID vaccination

PRIVATE sector employees, especially those classified as essential workers, will be among the government’s priority in the coronavirus immunization program, the country’s vaccine czar said on Wednesday.

In a televised press briefing, Secretary Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. said “members of economic sectors” or essential workers will be next in line after health workers in the government’s inoculation drive against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

The country’s immunization drive is expected to be rolled out by the end of February.

Some of the country’s big companies, along with the government, have signed purchase deals for COVID-19 vaccines.

Essential workers, based on the definition set by the national task force handling the coronavirus response, include those in transportation service, supermarkets, food production and delivery, and other basic necessities.

The vaccination priority list earlier released by the government includes medical frontliners, senior citizens, indigents, and uniformed personnel.   

At the same briefing, Mr. Galvez said the Philippine’s “best case scenario” is to inoculate as many as 70 million Filipinos against the coronavirus by the last quarter of 2021.

The “worst case scenario,” on the other hand, is to vaccinate the majority of the population “in the first semester of 2022.”

“We will not reach 2023,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) has been authorized to partner with private technology firms for vaccine monitoring and reporting.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque, Jr. on Wednesday said the DICT has been given the authority to procure the services of a qualified third-party service provider for the design approval, IT project implementation, and service management of the Philippine COVID-19 Vaccine Information Management System (VIMS).

“The functions of the Philippine COVID-19 VIMS shall include Citizen Vaccination Capture and Automation; Provide Management and Automation; Supply Chain Management; and VIMS Dashboarding, Reporting, and Analytics,” Mr. Roque told reporters in a Viber message.

A number of local governments have already announced that they will be using their own quick response code systems, which already contain data of residents, for the COVID-19 vaccination program. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

Solon assures proposed constitutional changes will not include term extension for elected officials

A lawmaker said proposals in revising the 1987 Constitution will not include allowing term extensions and/or limits to elected officials. AKO-BICOL Party-list Rep. Alfredo A. Garbin, Jr., chair of the House of Representatives committee on constitutional amendments, said congressmen will strictly stick to revising economic provisions.

Walang (No) term extension, walang lifting of term limit, walang political provisions,” he said in a statement on Wednesday, adding the intention of the revision is to “help the economy recover from the effects of the COVID-19.”

Mr. Garbin issued the statement after economic leaders questioned in a hearing on Tuesday the timing of the charter change, with the local and national polls scheduled in May 2022.   

In a separate briefing on Wednesday, Rizal 1st District Rep. Michael John R. Duavit agreed to the suggestion of holding discussions on charter change with the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC).

The suggestion was made during a Tuesday committee hearing by former Finance secretary Margarito B. Teves.

“It is something to be discussed, that should be discussed by the House and the Malacañang and the Senate,” he said.

Meanwhile, Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III said the two chambers will likely vote separately when it convenes as a Constituent Assembly.

“Indeed, it is correct that we vote separately. The Constitution mentions voting separately perhaps three or four times and only once it mentioned the we vote jointly and it’s only in the case of martial law,” Mr. Sotto said during a panel hearing on proposed constitutional amendments on Wednesday.

“I think that issue is resolved. And hearing from the Speaker (Lord Allan Q. Velasco) and the chairman of constitutional amendments committee, they agree,” he said.

The panel, composed of the committees on constitutional amendments and revision of codes, was tackling Senate Joint Resolution No. 1 and Resolution of Both Houses Nos. 1 and 2, which proposed to either convene the Constitutional Assembly or amend economic provisions of the Constitution.

Retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Adolfo S. Azcuna said the voting should be done separately, considering the nature of the Philippine Congress.

“I agree that because of the bicameral nature of Congress, they should vote separately,” he said, noting he also agrees the House and the Senate should hold a joint meeting when they vote. — Charmaine A. Tadalan and Gillian M. Cortez

Airlines reiterate appeal for gov’t to standardize travel requirements to boost domestic market

THE country’s air service providers have reiterated their appeal for government to standardize the travel requirements across the country to encourage more domestic passengers.

Air Carriers Association of the Philippines (ACAP) Executive Director and Vice-Chairman Roberto C. O. Lim said this year should be focused on boosting passenger confidence as they promote domestic flights. Part of this confidence-building is a unified framework for all local government units that will make requirements less confusing for travelers, he said.

“We should really adopt a risk management approach that will allow air transport to grow, to fly more destinations in a calibrated and safe way,” Mr. Lim said in a hearing by the House of Representatives committee on transportation on Wednesday.

ACAP is composed of the country’s three major domestic service providers, AirAsia Philippines, Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines, and their affiliates.

Eldric Paul A. Peredo, Civil Aeronautics Board’s Air Operating Rights Division chief, reported during the hearing that international and domestic passengers logged in by air carriers from the first to third quarters of 2020 were only 25% of the total passengers recorded in 2019.

Most airports across the country are already accepting commercial flights and several popular tourist destinations have reopened to local visitors. — Gillian M. Cortez

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