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Regional Updates (03/23/21)

Tacloban mayor gets COVID jab to allay vaccine hesitancy

TACLOBAN Mayor Alfred S. Romualdez received his first dose of the Sinovac vaccine on Mar. 22 to allay hesitancy among the city’s healthcare workers and the general public. “Because everyone was scared and everyone was waiting for me.  So I did it to lead my people out of fear. And I’m glad they responded positively,” Mr. Romualdez said in a statement released early Tuesday. “Never say that I did it to save myself before others.  I did it to make the people see that it was okay to get the vaccine,” he said, noting that an informal survey by local authorities showed only 50% of the population were willing to get inoculated against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The mayor, who tested positive for the virus in early December last year, said the vaccine is important in boosting protection against the severity of the disease. The League of Cities of the Philippines, in a statement on Mar. 18, said the national task force handling the coronavirus response has “reclassified” mayors as “essential workers and will be included in the priority groups to be vaccinated against COVID-19.” Presidential Spokesman Herminio L. Roque, Jr., however, said in a briefing Tuesday that the matter will have to be investigated as medical workers remain the top priority for currently available vaccines. — with a report from Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

Courts in ‘NCR Plus’ area to operate with skeletal workforce

ALL first and second level courts in Metro Manila and the surrounding provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal will operate with a 30% to 50% skeletal workforce from Tuesday to Mar. 31, the Supreme Court ordered following restrictions imposed in these areas referred to as the “NCR Plus” to curb the renewed surge in coronavirus cases. “Those who will not be in-court shall work from home and be subject to the submission of accomplishment reports,” the Supreme Court’s Office of the Court Administration said in a memo issued Tuesday. Presiding judges of affected courts are urged to use videoconferencing to conduct hearings. Quezon City Executive Judge Cecilyn E. Burgos-Villavert has asked the high court to physically close the city’s Hall of Justice main and annex buildings from Mar. 22 to Apr. 4, citing a high number of infections. The court has yet to decide on the request. The Department of Justice, meanwhile, will resume its on-site work on Wednesday but will operate with a 30% skeletal workforce, Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra told reporters on Tuesday via Viber. “The notable rise in COVID (coronavirus disease 2019) cases in the (department) has apparently slowed down,” Mr. Guevarra said. As of Mar. 23, the department’s main office in Manila had 46 active cases out of the total 66 recorded since 2020. — Bianca Angelica D. Añago

Muntinlupa representative takes street blockade issue to Justice chief

MUNTINLUPA City Representative Rozzano Rufino B. Biazon has asked the head of the Department of Justice to order the removal of a barrier built by prison authorities along a road that has long been used by residents outside the national penitentiary complex. “May I respectfully request that the structures built to close Insular Prison Road be immediately removed and that access be restored to the condition prior to the erection of the said obstruction,” Mr. Biazon said in his letter to Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra on Monday. The solon said the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) blocked Insular Prison Road  “without proper coordination and consultation” with the city government, Department of Public Works and Highways, nor the National Housing Authority (NHA), which set up the affected residential project. Mr. Guevarra told reporters on Tuesday that the department, which has administrative authority over BuCor, is working out something with the bureau “regarding this roadblock.” Insular Prison Road is the primary access for around 40,000 residents of Southville 3, a social housing project of the NHA. BuCor earlier claimed the wall was constructed for security reasons, and that it should have been built 15 years ago. — Bianca Angelica D. Añago

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