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Mindanao Private Sector petitions PRRD for comprehensive COVID-19 relief package

March 18, 2020

The regional chambers of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Mindanao have petitioned President Rodrigo Duterte to consider a comprehensive package of measures to cushion the adverse effects of the COVID-19 outbreak and its countermeasures on business and workers in the island. The petition was signed by Maria Teresa R. Alegrio, Area Vice President for Mindanao of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce & Industry (PCCI) and the governors of the PCCI regional chambers of South Eastern Mindanao, Central Mindanao, Northern Mindanao, Eastern Mindanao, Southwestern Mindanao, Western Mindanao, BARM Mindanao and Promote Normin Foundation headed by its President Elpidio M. Paras. “There are about 45 PCCI local Chambers of Commerce (LCCIs ) in Mindanao, around 90% belong to MSMEs whose capitalization range from Php3M-100M  while large companies comprise about 10% of the chamber members,” Alegrio said. PCCI National President Amb. Benedicto Yujuico has endorsed the petition to President Rodrigo Duterte through Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III . The petition describes how the lockdown of major cities and constraints placed on the movements of people and goods and services have left thousands of citizens without the means to provide for their daily needs, much less comply with the stringent measures to prevent the further spread of the virus among the populace, thus the urgent need for relief by adopting the following measures for the duration of the state of national emergency from the constraints and uncertainties imposed on livelihood, mobility and health. “Recognizing the continuing impact of COVID-19 crisis nationwide, the enforced “Community Quarantine” on Metro Manila, including many areas in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, the cancellation of all air, land and sea travel to and from the metropolis, and key areas of the country like Cebu and Davao, restrictions to minimize the contagion, have affected businesses particularly in the travel, tourism and their related sectors.” Urgent Fiscal Measures Most of the requested measures in the petition involve finance and taxation, such as requesting the Department of Finance (DOF) to allow tax payments after April 15th and waive applicable penalties and interest charges for delayed tax remittances; That Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and DOF encourage banks to declare a moratorium on loan amortizations falling due within six (6) months from the occurrence of COVID-19 for business, consumer, home and loans to large enterprises, provided affected MSMEs and corporations apply with their respective banks for the moratorium to take effect; to re-consider the holiday pay for workers for April 9, Holy Thursday (also Araw ng Kagitingan) from 300% (if a business is in operation) and 200% (if closed) to 200% (if in operation), and 100% (if closed); Using the Conditional Cash Transfer/Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino (CCT/PPP) Program to subsidize Micro and Small Businesses; for the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to establish a rehabilitation fund for affected MSMEs for technical assistance and special financing for working capital and equipment/machinery acquisition; and for DTI to encourage Mall owners/management/lessors to waive rentals for MSMEs during the period of the closure order; or, grant a special arrangement as a support to our MSMEs. The chambers also cited the need for DTI to strictly enforce price controls to keep food prices (and inflation) low, protect food supply and other basic and prime commodities, especially for the marginalized sectors, and enable trade to continue. Critical communications, utilities & vital industries Recognizing the critical role of communications in this crisis situation, the petition also asks the Department of Information & Communications Technology (DICT) to enjoin PLDT and Globe to remove all Data Capping in mobile Broadband Internet services, to allow their customers a continuous service 24/7 until the crisis is declared over. Likewise, the need for vital industries like power, water, transport, telecommunications and others that provide essential services continue to operate with businesses and workers exercising the recommended protocols as prescribed by DOH and guidelines issued by DOLE. Equally important, the private sector recognized the need for the immediate construction of critical health infrastructure to prevent health facilities from collapsing with the expected peaking of cases in the coming weeks. The petition asks government to consider re-aligning allocated public infrastructure funds for the immediate construction of Specialized Covid19 Monitoring and Treatment facilities across the country; It is also asking government to create and fund a Task Force that will be responsible for updating data and maps needed for a comprehensive snapshot of areas adversely affected by COVID-19 and the government resources deployed to curb its spread. “Such data will be necessary for a more efficient and accurate modeling studies which will help the private sector direct its resources where it can be of most help in helping curb and eradicate COVID- 19 as well as rehabilitate businesses and workers adversely affected by the current government countermeasures vs. COVID-19,” the petition read. On top of these, LGUs through the provincial, city and municipal health offices should aggressively campaign for the public to immediately adopt positive health habits such as personal hygiene, eat healthy food, particularly locally grown fruits and vegetables, to boost personal immunity and lessen the effects of infection. Keeping the food chain open Recognizing Mindanao’s key role as the food basket of the country, the petition asks that Mindanao be declared a separate food quarantine area to allow the unhampered delivery of food for the entire country. “The Department of Agriculture’s declarations on quarantined agricultural products (affected by the foot and mouth diseases, avian flu, etc.) cover the entire country. Location-specific Quarantine will help with the continued supply of food in the country.” Not the least, the petition urges the creation of a “food logistics backbone” from General Santos to Cebu City and Tagbilaran City via Davao and Bukidnon and government to put up cold storage at key points to keep the food chain going. Mindanao key to PH economy Home to about 24 percent of the country’s population, Mindanao also accounts for over 40 percent of the poor. Its share of the national budget, which has ranged from 13 percent to 15 percent, is now up to 17.9 percent. Although three of Mindanao’s regions experienced accelerated growth in 2018 (Davao Region with 8.6 percent; Northern Mindanao, 7.0 percent, and Zamboanga Peninsula, 6.3 percent; Mindanao’s economic output per capita of about $1,800 remains approximately half of the national level. One of its regions, the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Mindanao (BARM), has the lowest per capita GDP among all regions in the country.  

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Closure of shopping malls in Cagayan De Oro ordered

March 16, 2020

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY: Except for grocery stores and pharmacies, all shopping malls in this port capital in Northern Mindanao are temporarily closed effective Tuesday. City Mayor Oscar Moreno made the announcement during a press conference Monday as he belied reports about the declaration of the “community quarantine” in the city. Moreno said that the city will also impose the 10:00 o’clock curfew around the city except for the media, working professionals and health personnel. He said that the measures are adopted to prohibit the convergence of crowd in places like the shopping malls to counter the possible spread of the dreaded COVID-19. Moreno did not say on when the malls would open saying the measure is only temporary. According to Moreno, a citywide curfew would also take effect starting 10:00 p.m. Tuesday until 5 a.m. on the following day. Media practitioners, working professionals, and health workers are exempted from the curfew, he said. Moreno belied reports about the declaration of the “community quarantine” in the city. He said that the Northern Mindanao Medical Center (NMMC), the only referral government hospital for infectious diseases in the region, is located in Cagayan De Oro City. Declaring the city under “community quarantine” would find it hard to confine patients suspected of contracting COVID-19 at the NMMC here. “We will just restrict the movement of the residents, especially those who simply tarry around the city malls without a purpose,” Moreno said.

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MisOr extends P 1 m aid to gov’t hospital

March 16, 2020

MISAMIS ORIENTAL: Provincial Governor Yevgeny Vincente Emano has ordered the release of P 1 million for the government-0wned Northern Mindanao Medical Center (NMMC) in Cagayan de Oro City. The NMMC is the only government hospital in Northern Mindanao equipped to treat patients who contract infectious diseases like the COVID-19, SARS, and MerCov. Emano said that the fund is intended for the acquisition of much needed medical equipment, medicines, and protective medical gears to be utilized by health workers assigned to treat COVID-19 patients. Aside from the financial aid, Emano also extended two coasters for the NMMC doctors and medical personnel. As part of the measures to protect the law enforcers manning the checkpoints, the province also turnover protective gears to the police regional and provincial commands. Emano also ordered to immediately release the P6,000 clothing allowance for the provincial capitol employees, on top of the 10-day monetization. The governor also encouraged the provincial capitol workers to purchase medicines and food for their family. He said that the provincial capitol workers would also be dismissed early Monday afternoon to allow the provincial disaster personnel to disinfect the entire capitol building.

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Iligan mayor attends press briefing despite being in a home quarantine

March 16, 2020

ILIGAN CITY ----- Iligan City Mayor Celso Regencia attended on Sunday the press briefing and personally declared the implementation of community quarantine starting 12:01am on March 16 (Monday).      This despite being considered 'person under monitoring' (PUM) of COVID-19 and being on a home quarantine aftes his travel from Manila. Regencia said he arrived from Manila on Thursday evening. Dr. Leonel Quitos, infectious disease specialist, said the Iligan Medical Society (IMS) allowed Regencia to go out from his house because his presence is needed in the press briefing. "But we can see him following social distancing and is bringing with him an alcohol for disinfection. He immediately went home after the press briefing," Quitos said.     It was not clear if Regencia was already checked by the Barangay Health Emergency Response Team (BHERT) but Quitos said the IMS is monitoring his health. "I am following the DOH guidelines.     But I was told that I must be here for this press briefing, I came here. Anyway, I am feeling very good. If I feel I am sick, I will isolate myself," Regencia said. Persons travelling from Metro Manila are considered persons under monitoring (PUMs) and should not go out from their house for 14 days. PUMs are persons who showed no flu-like symptons but has travel history from places with confirmed COVID-19 cases. They are being monitored by the Barangay Health Emergency Response Team (BHERT).

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GSIS employee tests positive for COVID-19

March 16, 2020

President and General Manager Rolando Ledesma Macasaet of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) today revealed that one of their regular female employees tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. “The female employee had a travel history to Japan, and she started manifesting symptoms on March 7. She was admitted at the San Juan de Dios Hospital on March 11, where lab tests subsequently showed that she was indeed positive for the COVID-19 virus,” Macasaet said. The GSIS president refused to reveal the identity of the subject employee, citing privacy and security reasons. “We are in the process of ‘contact tracing.’ The subject employee already gave us the list of persons with whom she had close physical contact from March 7 to March 11,” Macasaet stated. “We have also started notifying the persons on the list and we advised them to self-quarantine and report to us if they are experiencing symptoms,” he further added. Macasaet said that he is also placing himself on self-quarantine, as he had close physical contact with several of the individuals listed down by the employee who tested positive for COVID-19. “I feel well and am not showing symptoms. But just as a precautionary measure, I had myself tested for COVID-19 and whIle waiting for the results,  I am placing myself on self-quarantine for the time being,” Macasaet said.     Due to recent developments, the GSIS Management has decided to continue the lockdown of the GSIS building in Pasay City until April 15. The GSIS Management also announced that the GSIS Branch Office located in Mindanao Avenue, Quezon City will be closed to the public for the same 30-day period. The GSIS Management also ordered a work suspension in its branch offices located in Cagayan de Oro, Tagum, and Iligan City, after several employees experienced symptoms. The said employees are currently waiting for their lab test results. Macasaet emphasized that all other GSIS branch offices and extension offices nationwide remain open to the public.  “I would like to assure the public that GSIS has a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) in place, and that our financial services will continue to flow unimpeded to our pensioners and members,” Macasaet stressed.  The Business Continuity Plan, developed by the Risk Management Office (RMO) of GSIS, comprises pre-arranged action plans and standard operating procedures (SOPs) for GSIS personnel to follow in times of natural calamities, man-made disasters and medical contingencies such as viral outbreaks. The state pension fund regularly conducts drills and seminars to train its personnel how to deal with various scenarios and crisis events.   Despite the lockdown, the GSIS Head Office in Pasay and its branch in Quezon City will continue to operate and will be manned by a skeletal workforce on rotational duty. Entry to the said offices, however, will be highly restricted and limited only to the following persons/parties: • GSIS members (with UMID cards) who want to avail of loans through the GWAPS kiosk; • GSIS members who need to pick-up their GFAL Top-Up cheques; and • Private lending institutions (PLIs) who need to pick-up their GFAL cheques. In order to eliminate the need for Agency Authorized Officers (AAOs) and Liaison Officers (LOs) to go to GSIS, applications for retirement/separation benefits, life insurance claims and over-the-counter (OTC) loan applications may be submitted through designated drop boxes in the Central Office or via email to their Membership Coordinator. The Operations Group of GSIS are currently coordinating the details of this interim measure to the various AAOs and LOs of government agencies.  Old-age pensioners who are experiencing problems accessing their pensions should report their concerns via the GSIS Contact Center at telephone 8-847-4747. A GSIS call center agent will be on hand to address their concerns.   Macasaet further stressed that GSIS has an existing “file anywhere” policy. “Government agencies based in Quezon City can submit their claims to GSIS Bulacan, and GSIS Bulacan will be able to process their claims. Individual members can also apply for a loan in any of our branches or GWAPS kiosks nearest them. Almost all of our systems and processes in GSIS are automated and computerized, and this allows us to provide our pensioners and members ‘anytime-anywhere’ access to our services,” he said.

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Power firm adopts schemes to lessen COVID-19 effect

March 14, 2020

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY:  Sanitation of workplaces is essential to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 in workplaces, a power company official said Friday.     Mae Roselle L. Curiano, the regional communication officer of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), said that the power grid has adopted regular sanitation of all workplaces minimize the COVID-19 effect among its workers.     She said that as a company policy all frequently touched surfaces like doorknobs, elevator buttons, and light switches would be sanitized every hour.     Curiano said that sanitation on wall surfaces, doors, floors and ceilings would be done after office hours.     All work tools, including keyboards and telephones, meeting rooms, hallways, and pantries will also be cleaned and sanitized after office hours.     She said that the NGCP is implementing the contingency measures to minimize the effect of COVID-19 on its workforce.     Other measures include the cancellation of official travels to affected countries and non-essential large events, protocol for employees returning from abroad.     She said that the stricter procedure for entry of guests on company premises and the introduction of alternative approach to meetings like video conferencing is also employed.     NGCP is also conducting regular sanitation of all workplaces, temperature checks prior to entry in its offices, and providing alcohol/hand Sanitizers in all facilities’ points of entry, Curiano said.

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