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Prices of goods revert to SRP after end of price freeze

May 18, 2020

MANILA – Prices of basic necessities reverted to their suggested retail prices (SRPs) effective Saturday after the end of the 60-day nationwide price freeze, as earlier announced by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).       For SRPs of manufactured basic goods, these will be based on the DTI SRP bulletin dated 30 September 2019.       “The lifting of the price freeze will not affect the prices and supply monitoring and enforcement activities being conducted by the DTI, DA (Department of Agriculture), and DOH (Department of Health) and our partner enforcement agencies. These shall continue as usual following the directive of President Duterte to go after erring businesses and individuals, and deal with violators to the highest and fullest extent of the law,” DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez said in a statement Sunday.      The end of nationwide price freeze on all basic necessities on May 15 was in accordance with DTI, DA and DOH Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) No. 2020-01.       It can be recalled that the declaration of a state of public health emergency (Proclamation No. 922) and state of calamity (Proclamation No. 929) triggered the implementation of Section 6 of the Price Act, which freezes the prices of all basic necessities at their prevailing prices for 60 days or until sooner lifted by the President.      With its end, consumers and retailers shall refer to the SRPs published by the DTI, DA and DOH for the purchase and sale of basic necessities and prime commodities.       The same shall also be the basis of the three agencies for their respective market monitoring activities.      The SRP bulletin for manufactured basic and prime goods dated 30 September 2019 can be viewed and downloaded from the DTI website. (PR)

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Oil prices to go up anew

May 18, 2020

MANILA – Oil prices increase for two weeks in a row as firms are set to implement the adjustment starting Tuesday.     In separate advisories, oil players will increase diesel prices by PHP0.55 per liter, gasoline prices by PHP1.25 per liter, and kerosene prices by PHP2.35 per liter.     The price hike reflects the movement in oil prices in the world market.     For this month, the cumulative increase in diesel is at PHP2.45 per liter, PHP4 for gasoline, and PHP3.60 for kerosene.     Global oil prices started to improve this month as oil producers and exporters agreed to cut their production to 10 million barrels per day until June.     As of posting, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude traded at USD30.77 per barrel, improving from USD24.74 a barrel price last week.     Brent crude price also went up to USD33.78 per barrel from last week’s price of USD30.97 per barrel. (PNA)

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Devastation and Opportunity

May 18, 2020

Most of us in Uptown CdO have been living a peaceful life with your families in this privileged part of Cagayan de Oro and Northern Mindanao. Children are going to nearby schools, shops and amenities at your doorstep, great walks and bicycle rides on the pathways between the various subdivisions, the golf, the comfort of nearby restaurants, the stores of the air-conditioned environment of SM Mall, the many hang-out places and bars, the easy access to Lumbia area, the city’s busy downtown, the not too far Laguindingan airport and most of all our beloved personal freedom. Freedom to do what you want to do, when you want and where you want, that was taken for granted.      Then one day Mr. Corona sweeps in from nowhere and takes over all our lives, our work, our habits, our passions, our personal and financial freedom; all gone in one blow. Mr. Corona is spreading fear and panic among all of us. Nothing is normal anymore. Face-masks, alcohol bathing, hand-washing, home confinement and overall disbelief. Travel banned, shops closed, offices closed, companies shut, work lost.  All the others doomed to the devastation that Mr. Corona brought upon us including the helplessness of the world’s authorities and the hysteric and psychotic preaching of the doomsday and our demise if we don’t follow the harshest guidelines of self-confinement and social distancing. “Stay home! Stay home!”, the incessant slogan with no end to the disaster in sight. Even the World Health Organization said that they don’t know if Mr. Corona will ever go away.     Waking up to this nightmare has been a harsh awakening. It has been a very serious problem for so many of us. Out there desperate families with no work, no food and no money trying to borrow from relatives and friends to survive. So many on a sardines and rice diet for months now hoping to get some needed cash at least to cover for the most urgent necessities. The government’s SAP program has been like a drop in the sea with too many not being able to receive this support. Too many have broken down psychologically, living with their egos and their pride in ashes, with the broken spirit of who cannot provide for his family and cannot see the light anymore. Entrepreneurs with their overheads, rental payments, loans, salary payments, desperate to gather their last resources to cover these costs. Layoffs as a result with thousands losing their jobs. Shop and Retail owners not receiving their rents or facing forcefully shut doors and therefore no customers and no income. Same in the tourism industry, the hotels, transportation and hospitality services. No tourists, no work, no money, no life. OFWs being sent home. Seafarers also being sent back. Tragedy, tears and hopelessness.       “What’s next? When can I go back to work? What shall we do? Who will give us a loan? Where do we get our daily food from? Will this ever end?”. These are the questions that most people keep on asking daily and is there an answer?

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PCOO recognizes DAR as FOI-compliant

May 18, 2020

QUEZON CITY -- The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) has received a certificate from the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) for being fully compliant with the enhanced Freedom of Information (FOI) Program requirements, as demanded under Executive Order No. 2, Series of 2016 signed by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on 23 July 2016.     The same requirement was also stipulated under Section 5.5 b of Memorandum Circular No. 2019-1, issued by the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Harmonization of National Government Performance Monitoring, Information and Reporting Systems.     “This certificate affirms that we are one with the government in promoting transparency in the department by providing the public and our stakeholders with easy access to information about DAR’s programs, projects, targets, and performances,” said DAR Secretary John Castriciones.     The FOI Program as embodied under EO No. 2, Series of 2016 23 July 2016, is being enforced in all government agencies and public institutions based on the constitutional right to information as stated in Section 28, Article II of the 1987 Constitution on the “state policy to full public disclosure of all its transactions,” except for sensitive information and matters affecting national security.     The FOI’s objective is to make public records and information freely available to the public, but with the aim to protect public records on grounds of public interest and full protection to a person’s right to privacy.     Aside from regularly publishing, printing and disseminating updated key information to the public, the DAR has designated FOI Receiving Officers and Decision Makers to accommodate all requests and queries online, forwards the same to concerned offices, responds immediately to queries,  compiles statistical information, monitors compliance and provides feedback report to the FOI-Project Management Office.     Castriciones expressed his appreciation to all those who took part in completing the FOI requirements for the DAR certification.     “This is a collective effort of the department. It also intensified the DAR’s commitment to serve not only our stakeholders but also the public,” Castriciones said.

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Phoenix Gas starts supplying gas-powered gensets

May 16, 2020

The country’s fastest-growing oil company, in partnership with US-based Mesa Natural Gas Solutions, LLC, is expected to bring the first batch of its gas-powered genset units in the Philippines next month. Signed late last year between Mesa and Phoenix Pilipinas Gas and Power, Inc. (Phoenix Gas), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Phoenix, the agreement designates Mesa to manufacture the gensets, while Phoenix will be in charge of the business in the country.     The generator sets are compact-designed, mobile, and custom-engineered to help businesses continue their operations, especially those that are in remote areas and those struggling to get a reliable power supply due to the consequences of the ongoing pandemic. The units will also use propane rich LPG, a clean, reliable, and more sustainable power source, to function, which will be supplied by Phoenix LPG Philippines, Inc.     For its pilot run, Phoenix Gas and Mesa produced three genset units, each with a maximum capacity of 350 kilowatts.     “We at Phoenix Gas have always been an advocate of the use of cleaner energy sources in the country. For years, we have been actively promoting LPG and LNG as viable options to broaden and diversify the Philippines’ energy mix,” Phoenix Gas President Henry Albert Fadullon said. “We are happy to share that amid the ongoing crisis, Phoenix Gas and Mesa have finished developing our gas-powered gensets, which are now en route to the Philippines for utilization. We are optimistic about the future of these types of gensets in the country, and we hope that this will signal the revolution towards a cleaner and more reliable power source.”     Primarily targeting to serve companies in the hospitality and manufacturing businesses, the Phoenix Gas-Mesa gensets are designed to enable remote performance monitoring on a real-time basis. Its technology also includes an on-site troubleshooting feature, if the need arises.     In December 2019, the two companies signed a partnership to promote the use of gas in the country, and to contribute to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ initiatives on Clean Development Mechanism. The agreement includes making genset units available in the Philippines with the corresponding commissioning, training, and technical support from the USA.

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Teleconsultation comes to the aid of non-Covid patients

May 16, 2020

[14 May 2020] CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY—While most businesses are shuttered, and office employees are working from home, the medical community must work hard to stay open to patients yet be tightly guarded by Covid-19 restrictions. The challenge for doctors is how to continue treating their patients even though their clinics are closed.  How can they “meet up” with patients without exposing themselves and their families to the risk of infection? Technology provides a solution: teleconsultation.  It minimizes the need to travel and face to face contact, thus protecting both the patients and health professionals from exposure to health risks.  For the first time in her 30-year practice, Dr. Corazon Mata attends to patients remotely. She is in charge of the obstetrics and gynecology hotline for the Telekonsulta Service of the Northern Mindanao Medical Center (NMMC).  Every day, she fields queries from ob-gyn patients all over Region 10, which covers the provinces of Misamis Oriental, Misamis Occidental, Bukidnon, Camiguin and Lanao del Norte. With the rapid spread of Covid, other health cases have been overshadowed, with many hospitals like NMMC recording a significant drop in patient consultations at the emergency room and out-patient clinics. The NMMC is a tertiary public hospital and one of the Covid referral centers in the region of 5 million. “This is the main reason we decided to start the NMMC Telekonsulta Service,” says Dr. Aris Austria, Telekonsulta project leader. “We were concerned particularly for our patients with chronic conditions requiring long-term medical care. Every healthcare facility should not focus only on handling the Covid-19 crisis but also consider minimizing ‘collateral damage’ on non-Covid patients.”  The NMMC Telekonsulta Service targets noncritical cases and aims to provide a venue for patients to directly consult medical professionals through their mobile phones.  Smart Communications partnered with the hospital by providing them with LTE phones capable of unlimited texts and calls to all networks and data connection. Each phone was assigned to doctors handling a specific field of specialization, such as pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, surgery or internal medicine. Since the start of the project in late March, the NMMC doctors have collectively handled more than 400 consultations, sent out almost 200 electronic prescriptions and facilitated around 50 referrals. They have also set appointments for actual clinic consultations for cases where a clinic visit is absolutely necessary. “A good part of diagnosing a patient is doing a complete physical,” says Dr. Ramon Yap, an internist-gastroenterologist. “But I believe the majority of patients can be safely managed through teleconsultation, albeit some patients may really have to be seen by a doctor in a clinic or referred to an appropriate institution like NMMC.” The experience is new to his 17-year practice, but he says doctors have to adapt. “The threat to the doctors is very real. We also have to think about protecting ourselves and our families, aside from trying to give comfort and healing to our patients. The limited resources that we have in our locality has made the practice of medicine very daunting and probably even unsettling.” As of the first week of April, the Department of Health (DOH) Region 10 had identified more than 4,000 persons under monitoring and around 300 under investigation. With more cases of Covid-19 positive patients and new admissions of suspected cases, the region’s health officials are not letting their guard down. The doctors admit that there are limitations to what they can perform without a face-to-face interaction, but they are finding ways to cope with this. Dr. Austria, a pediatrician, reports that teleconsultation has necessitated more parental engagement. He tells parents, “listen to the child’s breathing, feel their skin or pulse, touch the tummy, and describe what you find.” It is not the ideal way of examination, he concedes, so doctors should be cautious in utilizing information drawn from a teleconsultation to diagnose a patient’s condition. Pediatrics has the highest number of consultations. Dr. Jannie Lyne Palisbo, whose clinic is closed, is grateful that she can continue to treat her patients from home. “It is reassuring to both the patient and us physicians,” she says. Dr. Austria opines, “Teleconsultation should remain an option for patients under any circumstances that call for it, to hasten medical interventions, and to keep NMMC accessible to all the people in Region 10.”  With doctors and patients engaged in a back-and-forth exchange of information during teleconsultation, he appreciates that Smart ensures unhampered communications. The unlimited texts and calls are “a huge advantage,” enabling doctors to attend to as many patients as possible, he adds. Dr. Peter Quiaoit, NMMC medical training officer, also thanked Smart for making the out-patient department services “a phone call away” in the time of crisis.  “Smart is committed to providing innovative communications solutions that help fight the Covid pandemic.  The NMMC has taken a new path, using technology to enable their doctors to treat patients despite the current restrictions.  That’s why we are quite happy to support their initiative,” said Mon Isberto, Smart public affairs head. This being the institution’s first time to implement teleconsultation, the Telekonsulta team faced a lot of challenges, including a lack of proper guidelines or standard operating procedures, especially in consideration of patients’ informed consent and data privacy. Dr. Austria adds, “We also lacked essential materials, gadgets and enough volunteers to keep teleconsultation running. However, with support from our hospital administration and private companies like Smart, we were able to set it up eventually.” With the proper equipment and appropriate systems in place, teleconsultation will surely be part of the future of medical practice. As access to the internet and data-capable phones increases, there will be huge improvements in teleconsultation results, lowering the risk of misdiagnosis. With the Covid-19 pandemic far from over, and the risks remaining for even longer, interventions such as this will become part of the new normal, and technology will play a huge part.

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