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Economy

Nationwide round-up (03/03/21)

Private inspection centers seek revision of vehicle checking program

VEHICLE inspection center owners are proposing a revised private motor vehicle inspection program to President Rodrigo R. Duterte, as daily inspections have drastically declined from 100 to five. “Even with the price drop, there has been a drastic decline in the number of clients undergoing inspection in our centers,” the Vehicle Inspection Centers Owners Association of the Philippines said in a petition letter to the President published on Wednesday. “From doing 100 inspections a day, our centers are currently conducting only five to 10 daily inspections,” the group added. It said the program that is supposed to ensure road safety is “undergoing trial by publicity.” The Transport department started implementing a policy this year that transferred the inspection of vehicles to private centers for the annual registration renewal. “Your DoTr (Department of Transportation) and LTO (Land Transportation Office) are belabored by false accusations of corruption and inefficiency in the process of selection of authorized PMVIC (Private Motor Vehicle Inspection Center) owners,” the group told the President. To ensure the program serves its purpose, the group said the President should consider the adoption of “passing marks in the emission test” and “inspection report from an accredited PMVIC, regardless of the results.” The group said such requirements should be made mandatory for motor vehicle registration renewal of light vehicles, motorcycles, and public utility jeepneys. The Presidential Palace has yet to respond to a request for comment as of press time. — Arjay L. Balinbin

DoLE says employers cannot force workers to get coronavirus vaccine

THE Department of Labor and Employment said there is no legal basis for companies to force employees to get inoculated with a coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine as a prerequisite to go back to work. In a virtual briefing on Wednesday, Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III said the department will release an order to officially state that the “no COVID-19 vaccination, no work” policy reportedly imposed by some employers is illegal and discriminatory. “We will come out with the necessary and appropriate department order to protect our workers,” he said. He added that a worker’s refusal to be vaccinated should not be used as grounds for termination. The Associated Labor Unions on Tuesday said it received reports from workers that some employers were making COVID-19 vaccination mandatory. — Gillian M. Cortez

State auditors: PhilHealth case rate scheme efficient but needs regular checks on claims

THE Commission on Audit (CoA) said the Philippine Health Insurance Corp.’s (PhilHealth) case rate scheme, wherein values are assigned for specific treatments and medical services, was found to be efficient but prone to payment of potential false claims. In the system’s performance audit for the period 2011-2020, state auditors said while PhilHealth’s “All Case Rate Scheme” was proven efficient in terms of processing time in reimbursing claims to health care institutions, Philhealth failed to conduct regular reviews of these claims. The audit covered  67.95 million claims worth over P660 billion over the 10-year period. “If the actual costs for a treatment are significantly less than the case rate, then a corresponding adjustment in the case rate should be made. Similarly, if the actual costs are significantly higher than the case rate, then an adjustment should also be made to the case rate. This was not done, and any savings from such adjustments could have been used to augment the (PhilHealth) Reserve Fund,” CoA said. The audit agency also said PhilHealth’s existing claim review mechanisms such as the Medical Prepayment Review (MPR) was deficient in preventing inappropriate payments. From Mar. 1, 2019 to Jun. 30, 2020, a total of 878,876 claims should have undergone MPR but only 252,408 claims were reviewed. Of the remaining 626,648 claims, 443,162 claims were paid by PhilHealth despite not undergoing MPR, CoA said. Another mechanism, the Medical Post-Audit system, only checked 3.2 million claims out of the 16.48 million claims required to be post-audited from 2014 to Jun. 30, 2020. — Gillian M. Cortez

Senior citizens in jail included in COVID vaccination priority list, other prisoners may be considered

CHINA’S Sinovac vaccine — PHILSTAR/MICHAEL VARCAS

THE senior citizens category listed in the priority groups for coronavirus vaccination includes those in prison, according to Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra. Seniors in the Philippines are those 60 years old and above. Mr. Guevarra, in a Viber message to reporters on Wednesday, also said the priority groups that will be vaccinated first for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is still “subject to further sub-classification.” The list, determined by the national task force handling the COVID-19 response to which Mr. Guevarra is a member, covers health workers, senior citizens, indigents, and uniformed personnel. He said prisoners, or formally called persons deprived of liberty, could be considered based on “degree of vulnerability as a major factor.” Thousands in crowded prison facilities have been infected and the number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 has been questioned by the Senate. — Bianca Angelica D. Añago

Over 4,000 in education sector have been infected with COVID-19

MORE than 4,000 education sector workers and students have been infected with coronavirus, the Department of Education (DepEd) said Wednesday. Education Undersecretary Nepomuceno A. Malaluan said 4,468 cases have been reported to the department, 1,638 of whom were students and 2,830 were school personnel. “The DepEd have been monitoring our cases of infection within the department both for personnel and learners,” he told a Senate education committee hearing. Mr. Malaluan said Quezon province recorded the highest number of cases at 193, of which 102 were students and 91 were teaching and non-teaching personnel. This is followed by Batangas, Bataan, Cebu, Quezon City, Cavite, Navotas City, Davao City, and Negros Occidental. The Senate on Tuesday approved a resolution asking the government to start limited face-to-face classes in more than a thousand public schools in areas with low coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases or zero community transmission. There are about 60,000 public schools across the country. Mr. Malaluan said the pilot implementation of in-person classes would allow them to assess the viability of safely reopening schools. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

House targets May deadline for charter change proposal

THE House of Representatives is aiming to transmit its proposed changes on the economic provisions of the Constitution to the Senate before the end of May. AKO BICOL Party-list Rep. Alfredo A. Garbin, Jr., chair of the House committee on constitutional amendments, said on Wednesday that House Speaker Lord Alan Q. Velasco considers the passage of Resolution of Both Houses No. 2 as urgent and has set the May deadline. “This is why we have a timeline so we can transmit the finished product which is the lifting of the economic restrictions in the Constitution to the Senate,” he said during the weekly Ugnayan sa Batasan press briefing. — Gillian M. Cortez

Bill on bike lanes, low-speed streets gets House panel nod

BIKE riders traverse EDSA, a major thoroughfare and one of the busiest in Metro Manila. — PHILSTAR/MICHAEL VARCAS

THE proposed law on creating bicycle lanes and slow streets across the country was approved on Wednesday by a House of Representatives panel. The House committee on transportation approved the consolidation of House bills 8598, 8688, and 8697, which seek to establish a “safe pathways network” for bicycles and other non-motorized vehicles. The use of these modes of transportation has been increasing since the limited public transportation during the strict lockdowns last year to contain the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak. Public transportation has reopened gradually, but remain at limited capacity. The creation of more bicycle lanes in urban areas such as Metro Manila, Metro Cebu, and Metro Davao has also been mandated through the second Bayanihan Law, the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, which was legislated in September as an economic stimulus package. APEC Party-list Rep. Sergio C. Dagooc said during the hearing that the proposed bill should include a provision that will task the Department of Transportation to encourage the commuting public to use bicycles so there will be a “change of culture… so these facilities paid by the people will not go to waste.” — Gillian M. Cortez

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