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Local Roundup: Save OFWs

  • Save OFWs
  • Curb test cost
  • SAP zapped
A committee in the House of Representatives has approved a bill for the implementation of P5 billion worth of projects aimed at alleviating the plight of overseas Filipino workers who were adversely affected by the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

The Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs chaired by TUCP party-list Rep. Raymond Democrito Mendoza approved the measure which covers assistance programs such as repatriation, medical expenses in the form of vouchers for six months from arrival, migration fees for overstaying Filipinos, legal assistance, and basic necessities, among others.

Earlier, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration head Hans Cacdac requested for additional budget after reporting that the agency’s expenses have reached almost P500 million as of May 16. Philippine Overseas Employment Administration head Bernard Olalia said concerned government officials should also consider the 40,000 seafarers expected to arrive due to crew change and will eventually undergo quarantine.

Regulate testing cost

A lawmaker on Sunday asked the government to regulate the cost of COVID-19 testing at hospitals and laboratories, both public and private, to ensure that more Filipinos have access to affordable screening for the deadly disease.

“Amid the urgent need for mass testing to contain the spread of COVID-19, it is important for the government to make sure that the test kits and processing fees are being reasonably priced to give access to those not eligible for free testing,” Bagong Henerasyon party-list Rep. Bernadette Herrera said.

“There has to be transparency into the cost of COVID-19 testing to protect the public against price gouging and ensure its affordability so that every person who needs or wants a test gets one,” she added.

Herrera issued the statement after it became public knowledge that some hospitals and laboratories are charging as high as P8,150 for a single coronavirus test, more than double the P3,500 the Philippine Red Cross charges for its real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction test.

Plant, plant, plant

A congressional leader wants a “re-prioritization” of the proposed 2021 national government budget, with a significant increase in the funds allotted for agricultural development—“with the long-term goal of attaining sufficiency in rice and other basic foodstuff in the post-pandemic scenario.”

“Alongside ‘Build, Build, Build,’ the Duterte administration needs to likewise put ‘Plant, Plant, Plant’ on the front burner to best prepare the country for the ‘new normal’ once the pandemic spawned by the coronavirus has been contained,” Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte said:

He said that in support of higher farm productivity, the social amelioration subpanel of the House of Representatives’ Defeat Covid-19 Committee (DCC) has passed House Resolution No. 821 backing a supplemental budget for the Department of Agriculture for its food supply availability and price stabilization programs.

Poor SAP implementation

A thinktank which helped marginalized families file appeals for inclusion in the government’s Social Amelioration Program said the recent Social Weather Station survey indicating rising hunger during the coronavirus crisis confirms that the cash aid is poorly implemented.

“The SWS hunger survey provides government the imperative to rethink its social protection programs as we ease lockdowns around the country. Despite almost all respondents receiving government aid, a 16.7 percent hunger index indicates that the aid did not reach beneficiaries in time to prevent involuntary hunger,” said Terry Ridon, Infrawatch PH convenor and former urban poor chief of the Duterte administration.

“Many qualified families were disqualified in their communities on the basis of the subjective metrics by local officials, instead of implementing the guidelines of the DSWD. As an example, entire barangays were disqualified by a local government, as these were perceived as ‘middle class barangays.’”

Utilize ICT tools

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles on Sunday said the government will be maximizing information and communications technology (ICT) tools in its initiatives to combat hunger, especially in light of the SWS survey which showed that 16.7 percent of Filipino families experienced involuntary hunger at least once in the past three months.

“ICT tools are a helpful resource for policymakers and implementers, which is why we are studying these properly as these can help us perform our duties,” said Nograles who heads the government’s Zero Hunger Task Force and is co-chairman of the IATF.

“Sa isang banda, magandang balita na halos 100 percent ng na-survey ay nakatanggap ng ayuda mula sa gobyerno. However, if there are families that are still experiencing hunger despite the assistance being extended by government and other institutions, kailangan natin matumbok ang dahilan para agad ito matugunan.”

Emirates ferries returning OFWs

Emirates will operate its first passenger flight from Manila to Dubai since the lockdown on May 30 to facilitate the return of overseas Filipino worker residents of the United Arab Emirates.

The airline said additional flights may be added starting June 1, subject to approval by Philippines authorities.

Those who wish to return to the UAE must meet entry requirements and obtain an entry permit online prior to booking flights.

As stringent entry restrictions remain in place upon arrival in Dubai, passengers will be subjected to a mandatory test on arrival, a mandatory 14-day quarantine at the passengers’ own expense and a follow up test before release.

Manila offers e-tax payment system to LGUs

Manila Mayor Francisco Domagoso has offered the city’s online tax payment system to all local government units in the country for free.

In order to curb the potential exposure of taxpayers to COVID-19, Domagoso encouraged fellow local government leaders to utilize the City of Manila’s online tax payment system for their respective cities or municipalities.

“Ako po ay nananawagan sa lahat ng mayor sa buong Pilipinas, municipal o city, kung gusto niyo lang, ino-offer namin para sa pangkahalatan na, kung gusto ninyong magkaroon din ng online payment bibigay namin sa inyo ng libre,” Domagoso said in his weekly Facebook Live program “The Capital Report.”

The Manila City government recently launched the website www.cityofmanila.ph where Manileños could process their tax payments online.

Rent moratorium

Sen. Manuel Lapid is pushing for a measure aim that will impose a moratorium on the payment of all fees, charges and costs relative to rental of residential units during national emergency situations.

Senate Bill No. 1525 also seeks to provide moratorium on evictions for the same period regardless of the cause, except when a lessee/sub-lessee perpetrates a criminal act.

The proposed measure plans to cover disasters and other kinds of emergencies which are national in scope as declared through a State of Calamity or State of National Emergency by the President. The moratorium will also cover State of Calamity or Emergency declared in provinces, cities, and municipalities.

Topics: House of Representatives , novel coronavirus disease pandemic , Raymond Democrito Mendoza
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