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P13-B subsidy for employers sought

October 24, 2020

Cagayan de Oro 2nd District Representative Rufus Rodriguez  has urged the national government to subsidize distressed employers in the amount  of P13.7 billion to enable them to pay their workers their 13th-month salary or Christmas bonus.      Our workers in the micro, small and medium enterprises have suffered so much since March 15 from layoffs or reduced working days up to now, and it will be cruel to deny Christmas to them by not giving their 13th month pay, Rodriguez said.       His appeal, contained in Resolution No. 1310, is specifically addressed to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).      Rodriguez said employers in the micro, small and medium-scale business sector particularly need help amid this pandemic.      He said data from the DOLE and the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that between 1.5 million and 5.1 million SME workers have been adversely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.      Rodriguez said that In Cagayan de Oro alone, more than 16,000 workers have been laid off because of Covid 19 pandemic.      He said Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello lll estimates that P5 billion to P13.7 billion would be needed to subsidize distressed MSME employers so they could pay their personnel their Christmas bonus.      “The government, specifically the DOLE, should come in to implement a subsidy program and provide funds for qualified and distressed employers, particularly micro, small and medium-scale enterprises,” Rodriguez stressed.      He pointed out that the due to economic difficulties caused by the pandemic, many employers “are suffering losses and do not have the funds to pay the mandatory 13th-month pay even if they are willing to do so.”      In fact, the pandemic has forced scores of businesses to close shop, some temporarily, others permanently, he said.      Rodriguez said in the case of workers, millions have lost their jobs, while those who remain employed find it very difficult to make both ends meet.      “2020 has been a very bad year for most Filipinos because of Covid-19 and its effects on their health, employment and income,” he added.

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UNICEF: Resuming vaccination campaigns a win for children

October 23, 2020

IN commemoration of World Polio Day, the United Nations Children's Fund, originally known as the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) highlights the importance of vaccination to fulfill every child’s fundamental right to health. As the Philippines faces COVID-19 and another nationwide round of measles and polio campaign begins on October 26, UNICEF calls on all sectors of the society to work together to ensure that all children are immunized.   Polio, a deadly viral disease that was once the leading cause of paralysis among children worldwide, reemerged in the Philippines in 2019. To date, there are 17 confirmed cases of polio in the country.  As a result of immunization challenges before and during the pandemic, the number of unvaccinated children in the Philippines continues to rise, putting communities at risk of disease outbreaks and child deaths.   UNICEF supports the Department of Health through vaccine procurement and delivery, development of immunization guidelines, social mobilization and building the capacity of DOH and LGU staff nationwide to plan and ensure that no child is missed. An essential pillar of UNICEF’s work with the DOH involves risk communication and community engagement. As fear of COVID-19 infections and vaccine hesitancy threatens full immunisation coverage, UNICEF helps to effectively communicate to parents and caregivers why immunization is important for children, and what information is correct and incorrect. “No child should suffer or die from a disease that can be prevented by a vaccine that is available for free. For the upcoming campaign, please take your children to be immunised at vaccination points. Arm yourself with the right information so that your children can grow up healthy,” UNICEF Philippines Health and Nutrition Chief Malalay Ahmadzai says. The nationwide Measles Rubella-Oral Polio Vaccine Supplemental Immunization (MR-OPV SIA) Activity will be rolled out in two phases. Phase 1 MR-OPV SIA will be conducted from 26 October to 25 November 2020 in Mindanao Regions, Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley Region, MIMAROPA Region, and Bicol Region. Phase 2 MR-OPV SIA will be conducted in February 2021 in Visayas Regions, National Capital Region, Central Luzon, and CALABARZON. Children 9-59 months old will be given Measles - Rubella vaccine while 0-59 months old will be provided with oral Polio vaccine. Health workers are provided with Personal Protective Equipment and trained in Infection Prevention and Control to prevent COVID-19 infections to ensure safety of the health workers, parents and children. (PR)

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Health: A Political Choice - Act Now, Together

October 23, 2020

● The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the global economy and threatened to undo decades of progress made in health care ● Health: A Political Choice – Act Now, Together is the latest in a series of titles produced in collaboration with the World Health Organization. It calls on key actors to unite in their response to the pandemic and other imminent and long-term threats ● The publication will launch during the World Health Summit, on 25–27 October – which, this year, will take place as a fully digital, interactive conference with a free-to-view programme – and coincides with the 75th anniversary of the United Nation General Assembly The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented disruption and challenges to the global economy and populations worldwide. It has highlighted and widened the existing gaps in Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and laid bare the pressing need for high-quality essential health services for all – without a price tag. Health: A Political Choice – Act Now, Together, which launches during this year’s virtual World Health Summit on 25–27 October, and coincides with the 75th anniversary of the UN General Assembly, calls on world leaders and politicians to unite in their response to the COVID-19 pandemic and other imminent and long-term threats to population health and the global economy. It is the latest in a series of titles produced in collaboration with the World Health Organization, the first of which – Health: A Political Choice – called for UHC. This year’s edition features another prestigious line-up of authors, including Amina J. Mohammed, deputy secretary-general of the UN, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the WHO and president of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa. Calling for coordinated action in response to COVID-19 and on other pressing health-related issues, the publication focuses on five key areas: 1. Inclusive economics, defined by a new social contract and the pursuit of progress for all 2. The fundamental requirements for a healthy life and equitable health care 3. Equitable investments and how to make UHC a reality 4. Health in the digital age and how technology can help reshape the human rights agenda 5. The long-term outlook on global health Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said: “It has never been clearer that health is a political and economic choice. In the past 20 years, countries have invested heavily in preparing for terrorist attacks, but relatively little in preparing for the attack of a virus – which, as the COVID-19 pandemic has proven, can be far more deadly, disruptive and costly.” “This will not be the last pandemic. But when the next one comes, the world must be ready. Part of every country’s commitment to build back better must therefore be to public health, as an investment in a healthier and safer future.” Health: A Political Choice – Act Now, Together is an official publication of the Global Governance Project produced in collaboration with the World Health Organization. The Global Governance Project is a joint initiative between GT Media Group, a London-based publishing company, the Global Governance Program based at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto, and the Global Health Centre at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva. (PR)

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Save the Children Philippines launches eSave Natin ang Pasko fundraising campaign to support children’s learning needs

October 23, 2020

CHRISTMAS is the most awaited season for most Filipinos, especially children, but the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed the way the upcoming holidays will be celebrated—it’s going digital! Save the Children Philippines is launching e-Save Natin ang Pasko, an online fundraising campaign that encourages everyone to unite in saving the Christmas spirit through a series of joyous and meaningful activities to provide joy and hope to children. These include 22 million learners, who have been experiencing major challenges such as the lack of access to learning materials and internet connection, as they struggle to learn from home.   The proceeds of the Christmas fundraising campaign will support the learning needs of children in poor households in Metro Manila, typhoon-stricken places in Eastern Visayas, and the conflict-affected areas in Mindanao. It will also support children with disabilities, those from indigenous communities and from hard to reach areas.   “Even if classes are conducted through distance learning or will resume via face-to-face, millions of children will still need our support as they continue to be deprived of their right to education since their families do not have the means to support their learning needs,” said Atty. Alberto Muyot, Chief Executive Officer of Save the Children Philippines.   e-Save Natin ang Pasko also promotes the importance of a nurturing home through the “Mapagkalingang Tahanan” advocacy – where every member of the family, especially children, receives the support they need so they learn, survive, and are protected.   “Mapagkalingang Tahanan” emphasizes the critical role of parents, guardians, and caregivers in the continued learning of children and aims to provide them the knowledge and skills to facilitate their children’s learning.   Also, in keeping with the tradition of Christmas caroling, e-Save Natin ang Pasko features “Namamasko po!” – a fun group activity by schools, families, and companies showcasing their musical talent and creativity.   eSave Natin ang Pasko will be highlighted by a digital concert “Awit para sa mga Bata” in December where famous singers will serenade the audience in the Philippines and those living abroad with Christmas songs. The digital concert will be produced by prominent theater artists Menchu Lauchengco Yulo and Michael Williams, together with Save the Children Philippines’ Bianca Elizalde.   Donors and participants who will pledge their support to eSave Natin ang Pasko will receive tokens of appreciation and a chance to be featured on the social media pages of Save the Children and its Ambassadors Katarina Rodriguez, Xia Vigor, and Ria Atayde. “Education empowers children especially those in dire situations, and supporting their learning needs will save their lives and their future,” said Muyot.(pr)

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Chinese steel execs pay courtesy call to new Phividec administrator

October 22, 2020

TAGOLOAN, Misamis Oriental—Officials of Chinese firm Philippine Sanjia Steel Corporation paid a visit to the newly-appointed Administrator and Chief Executive Office of PHIVIDEC-Industrial Authority Jose Gabriel “Pompee” La Viña last October 20, 2020.   In 2018, Philippine Sanjia Steel Corporation put up an P800 million steel manufacturing plant in Tagoloan.   “We choose to establish the steel plant in Tagoloan because of its strategic location. Transporation is very convenient and accessible because it is near the port. We can build our own wharf so that the transport of materials will be easier,” said Philippine Sanjia Steel Corporation manager Zhang Dangjian.   The company is engaged in production of steel products such as construction steels. They are targetting domestic market for their products.   “PHIVIDEC-IA will assist the company so that they can start with their operation as soon as possible. They can tell their friends in China that with PHIVIDEC-IA, they can establish a successful business so that we can have more investors in the country,” said La Viña.   The company has completed the construction of their facilities and will soon be hiring residents from Misamis Oriental and Cagayan de Oro for employment.   “You should employ Filipinos and help Filipino families. And you should always treat them well,” added La Viña.   Aside from generating local employment, the company will also procure their raw materials from local sources. In a month, the company requires 50 to 60 metric tons of raw materials.   The plant has a land area of 22.7 hectares in Barangay Baluarte, which is within PHIVIDEC Industrial Estate .

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JTIP warns of more cigarette smuggling via backdoor during holiday season

October 22, 2020

Japan Tobacco International (JTI) has appealed to law enforcement agencies to intensify its anti-smuggling efforts in the country’s regions, particularly in Visayas and Mindanao, as more contraband cigarettes are expected to enter the country’s backdoor during the yuletide season. JTI Philippines (JTIP) General Manager John Freda said key areas in Mindanao and Visayas have been traditional backdoor channels for illegal cigarettes and a series of seizures in the ports of Visayas and Mindanao over the past weeks are indicative that smuggling syndicates are stocking up. Freda noted that in recent weeks, a series of seizures and interceptions were made by the anti-smuggling team of Bureau of Customs (BOC) in the ports of Cebu, Cagayan de Oro, Zamboanga and Davao. In Cebu, the BOC hauled in a total of P148 million in illegal cigarettes during August alone followed by the interception of two containers filled with cigarette contraband worth P88.1 million in the first week of September. For the entire month of September, BOC Cebu destroyed a total of P180 million worth of smuggled goods, 36% of which were illegal cigarettes. Bacolod, Iloilo and Tacloban in the Visayas have also encountered rising incidents of cigarette smuggling in the recent past. In Mindanao, BOC teams intercepted some P96.6 million worth of illegally imported cigarettes in the port of Davao while destroying P50 million worth of illegal cigarettes in Cagayan de Oro, both happening in the first week of October. Seizures were also recently conducted by law enforcement units in the port of Zamboanga where P1.5 billion of illegal cigarettes including raw materials were destroyed.  Freda nevertheless lauded the series of successful operations made by the BOC and Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) in recent months as smuggling incidents became rampant amid the pandemic. “I understand that for a country with so many islands like the Philippines, it is a huge challenge to control the problem, but the deterrents need to be stronger,” Freda said. He said illegal tobacco trade is a growing problem in the country, which requires more government attention and “absolute vigilance.” “Stiffer sanctions are required. We need to see people being caught and brought to justice in a way that deters others from being part of this criminal endeavor,” Freda said even as he reiterated his call for higher penalties and sanctions against tobacco smugglers to sharpen the deterrence. He said more smuggling attempts are expected with increasing frequency during the yuletide months even with a quarantine in effect. “Syndicates will surely try to cash in on this and compete with legal and tax-paying tobacco players as the pandemic drags on until Christmas and even beyond New Year,” Freda pointed out. He stressed coastal borders and port cities in the Visayas and Mindanao must be put under tighter watch to thwart smugglers taking advantage of the current situation. Freda likewise cited a JTI global study, which showed that organized criminal groups around the world are capitalizing on the COVID-19 pandemic to operate their illicit tobacco trade. The JTI report, which covered 50 countries, also noted “a strong presence” of tobacco smugglers in the Philippines. JTI markets in the Philippines cigarette brands Winston, Camel, Mevius, Mighty and Marvels. According to the JTIP GM, illegal tobacco trade is considered a lucrative business for criminals who make huge profits with very low risk of getting caught and “insignificant” penalties. This deprives the government of collecting revenues, with both contraband and counterfeit cigarettes being smuggled without paying taxes. According to the World Bank, the global trade in illegal tobacco is already worth an estimated $40 billion to $50 billion each year. The government has also been confronted with a diminished collection from tobacco excise tax since the pandemic hit in early March. The latest preliminary Department of Finance (DOF) data showed that the excise tax take from tobacco, e-cigarettes and alcohol amounted to P140.1 billion as of end-August, down 13 percent from P161.8 billion during the first eight months of last year. From January to August, tobacco excise tax collections dropped to P95.7 billion from P111.3 billion a year ago, while those from alcoholic beverages declined to P44.4 billion from P50.5 billion a year ago. The stringent COVID-19 quarantine from mid-March to May affected both the supply of and demand for alcohol and tobacco products as factories stopped production for the local market while movement of nonessential goods was restricted, including liquor bans imposed by some local government units to discourage social drinking. At the height of the lockdown, illicit cigarette traders raked in as they took advantage of the dwindling availability of tax-paid cigarettes.

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