- 30% budget cut
- Contact tracers
- PhilHealth explains
The chairman of the House committee on public accounts on Thursday called for “deeper cuts” in this year’s P4.1-trillion national budget to raise funds for COVID-19 response measures and the social amelioration program.
“I am proposing a reduction of at least 30 percent in non-essential expenses of the government. Some of these expenditures we can altogether forego and use the money to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and help the poor and other affected sectors,” Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Mike Defensor said.
Defensor earlier called for a 20-percent cut in such expenses, but the Department of Budget and Management opted to cut such items only by 10 percent. The DBM also slashed “programmed appropriations” by 35 percent.
Defensor said non-essential expenditures were part of the “maintenance and other operating expenses” or MOOE, for which P1.6 trillion is allocated in the 2020 budget.
“If the DBM can effect an across-the-board reduction of 30 percent, we can easily generate P480 billion for COVID-19 measures and SAP financial assistance to the poor,” he said.
State insurer Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) on Thursday explained the P8,150 package for testing on the coronavirus disease was a lot higher as compared to the other ones used due to a high demand during the initial onslaught of the pandemic in the country.
In an interview on Dobol B sa News TV, PhilHealth president and chief executive officer Ricardo Morales said the P8,150 price was only for tests acquired in March when there was limited supply.
PhilHealth was recently questioned by senators on why test kits were priced at a high of P8,150, while other tests were priced at P2,700.
Morales said the drop in prices to a low of P2,700 came after the private sector stepped in and increased the available test kits in the country.
The Joint Task Force Corona Virus Shield (JTF CV Shield) on Thursday said it would implement modified checkpoints in Metro Manila and other urban areas nationwide to ease traffic congestion, as more vehicles were expected to ply roads with the partial resumption of business operations.
“With the downgrading of community quarantine status in almost all areas in the country, there is a significant increase in motor vehicles everywhere. There are times where we cannot check all vehicles passing through our fixed checkpoints since this could create monstrous traffic congestion, which will defeat the purpose of partially reopening the economy,” said JTF CV Shield commander, Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, in a statement.
The move seeks to prevent long queues of vehicles at quarantine control points, especially that more people are now allowed to go out due to lifting of some restrictions under the modified enhanced community quarantine and the general community quarantine which took effect on May 16.
The Paranaque City government is now considering placing several streets in two barangays under what it called ‘calibrated lockdown’ after residents violated quarantine protocols resulting in the resurgence of COVID-19 cases in the areas.
Mayor Edwin Olivarez said this is in response to the call of the national government to limit lockdowns to the streets in the barangay with high number of coronavirus cases and not the entire city to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on the economy.
The city government already placed 10 streets in Barangay Baclaran under a three-day “calibrated lockdown” until Saturday due the high number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus disease.
The streets include Bagong Sikat, Bagong Lipunan, Bagong Pag-asa, Bagong Ilog, E. Rodriguez, Bagong Buhay, Bagong Silang, Dimasalang Extension, Mabuhay, and 12 de Junio.
‘Send OFWs home’
A migration and consultant expert said the government should send home 27, 000 overseas Filipino workers stuck in quarantine facilities who are tested negative for COVID-19.
Manny Geslani said this would give way to another incoming wave of seafarers in the coming weeks.
The Coast Guard said it had done 7,100 tests on the seafarers and was just awaiting results from the Philippine Red Cross before taking ashore the OFWs.
The Department of Public Works and Highways said it would build temporary dormitories to house health care workers of major hospitals along East Avenue and Quezon Avenue in Quezon City.
The establishment of safe and secure temporary physical shelter is needed by hospital workers after a strenuous day at the frontlines of COVID-19, Public Works Secretary Mark Villar said.
DPWH Task Force Head for Augmentation of Health Facilities Emil Sadain identified the Quezon Memorial Circle or the wide ground of Veterans Memorial Medical Center as ideal sites of proposed temporary accommodation house for health care workers from East Avenue Medical Center and Philippine Heart Center located at East Avenue; Lung Center of the Philippines and National Kidney and Transplant Institute in Quezon Avenue; and Veterans Memorial Medical Center in North Avenue who are all in the fight against this pandemic.
Transport for returnees
Senator Richard Gordon on Thursday proposed the government should provide transportation, such as bus services, for the people who are now returning to work amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The senator pointed out that the lack of public transportation would be a big problem for workers who would be coming back to work, especially if they were living in an area under MECQ and working in a GCQ area.
Gordon said the Department of Labor and Employment should make arrangements with the Department of Transportation and the Land Transportation Franchise Regulatory Board for providing bus services since not all companies have their own shuttle services.
Senator Ralph Recto on Thursday proposed the hiring of COVID -19 contact tracers, saying a “cash-for-work” scheme should be the template in providing emergency employment to the millions of Filipinos rendered jobless caused by the pandemic.
“Instead of purely handouts, pay them to lend a helping hand in fighting the disease,” Recto said.
The transition to the new normal, Recto said, would require workers who will retool and redesign the current infrastructure.
“If we have to boost food production, because countries that supply us rice are now into rice nationalism, then implement a cash-for-work scheme in the repair of irrigation canals and in building facilities that will cut post-harvest facilities loses,” Recto said.
Reduced agri volume
COVID 19 is foreseen to substantially reduce by a significant 3.11 percent the volume of agriculture output in Southeast Asia (at 17.03 million metric tons or MT) for the first quarter of 2020 as a result of a decrease in farm labor affecting 100.77 million farmers.
This loss is equivalent to $3.76 billion or 1.4 percent in gross domestic product for the Southeast Asian region, according to the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA).
In a policy paper, “Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on the Agriculture Production in Southeast Asia: Reinforcing Transformative Change in Agricultural Food Systems,” SEARCA asserts that a unique balance must be achieved among Southeast Asian countries on two important goals—trade and food security.