COVID-19 Crisis: MECQ for NCR Plus extended until May 14, 2021

After weeks of anticipation by the public, President Rodrigo Duterte announced the other night the extension of modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) until May 14, 2021 for the National Capital Region (NCR) plus the bordering provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal. In connection to this, Duterte apologized.

To put things about the extended MECQ in perspective, posted below is an excerpt from the Philippine News Agency (PNA) article. Some parts in bold…

“Modified enhanced community quarantine. Modified ito so medyo strict. NCR, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, Rizal (Modified enhanced community quarantine – modified, meaning somehow strict – will be imposed in NCR, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal),” Duterte said in his talk to the people.

MECQ will be implemented in NCR Plus, composed of Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal, MECQ until May 14, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a separate press statement.

Quirino and Abra provinces, as well as the City of Santiago in Isabela, will also stay under MECQ for the whole month of May, Duterte said.

On the other hand, the more relaxed general community quarantine (GCQ) will be imposed in Apayao, Baguio City, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga, Mountain Province, Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Batangas, Quezon, Tacloban City, Iligan City, Davao City, and Lanao del Sur from May 1 to 31.

The rest of the country will remain under the least restrictive modified GCQ (MGCQ).

Roque said the latest quarantine status is still “subject to the appeals of local government units.”

The government is targeting to lower health care and intensive care unit (ICU) utilization rates to ease the quarantine protocols in the country amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

In recent times, the daily count of new COVID-19 cases in the Philippines fell below 10,000. It was reported the other day that the new COVID-19 cases was at 6,895 nationwide. Still the nation has over 1,000,000 COVID-19 cases grand total (including recoveries) and the secured vaccines cannot arrive fast enough from overseas. Also, it will take a lot of time before the local production of vaccines will become a reality in the nation.

Apart from public health, more attention should be paid on the economy which has been set back a lot since the latest ECQ (enhanced community quarantine). The current MECQ meanwhile resulted 13% of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to stay closed specifically in the NCR Plus zone.

More on the economy, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez is pushing to help the economy by recommending a flexible MECQ in NCR Plus with gradual reopening of labor-intensive sectors in mind.

For perspective, posted below is an excerpt for the Philippine News Agency article. Some parts in bold…

In a radio interview Thursday, Lopez said the agency is eyeing to reopen personal care services with a limited capacity of 20 to 30 percent as well as dine-in services in food establishments by 10 to 20 percent.

“Ni-recommend ho kasi naming ‘yong MECQ with flexibility. We are just after sa pagbabalik ng trabaho, pero yung higpit naman ng mobility ay nandoon pa rin. Ang importante lang ay itong trabaho. We’re talking about opening the sectors na sarado pa rin (We recommended the MECQ with flexibility. We are just after bringing back jobs, but the strict mobility will still be there. What’s important is the jobs. We’re talking about opening the sectors that are still closed),” he said.

He added that the gradual reopening of the personal care and dine-in services was “partially discussed” with the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF).

“Iko-confirm na lang mamaya sa IATF kung ilang porsyento [The IATF will confirm later the percentage (of capacity)],” Lopez said.

An estimated 200,000 workers in personal care services and 1 million fast-food and restaurant crews were affected during the stricter community quarantine measures in National Capital Region, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal and about PHP60 billion worth of wages were lost during the two-week MECQ, Lopez said.

The current MECQ also shed PHP120 billion in gross domestic product, on top of the PHP180-billion economic losses during the two-week ECQ.

While it is essential for people and organizations to follow health protocols and avoid COVID-19 infections, the same goes with the economy. So many have been suffering from the lack of jobs, the loss of income and, in the case of businesses, the loss of customers and clients. Being in the private sector myself, I definitely want more businesses of any size to reopen, make money, hire the unemployed and contribute to the development of local society. I want to see the personal care services to resume operations, as well as the return of indoor dining for restaurants and cafes. I also want to see more of my fellow Filipinos to stay above poverty and rise higher. That being said, I say that capitalism is the way to go and the real way to restore prosperity for the Philippines even as we face varied challenges daily during this COVID-19 (China Virus) crisis.

From this point on, I encourage you to keep observing the moves of not only the national authorities but also those in your local government, your barangay and other organizations serving you. Pray that the public servants and community leaders will look up to the Lord and acknowledge His authority over them. Pray for the leaders to look up to God. Finally, no matter how good or bad your situation is, keep having strong faith in our Lord. If you are hurting and you need healing, come to Lord Jesus (read Mark 5:25-34 in the Holy Bible).

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Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

COVID-19 Crisis: Philippines to become a new producer of vaccines?

Very recently, the national authorities announced that the grand total of COVID-19 (China Virus) cases in the Philippines had surpassed the 1 million mark, landing at 1,006,428 cases. There will be many millions of new vaccines coming into the country but they just could not come in fast enough.

In recent times, the national government started making a move to become a new player in the production of new vaccines for coronavirus according to National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19 chief implementer Sec. Carlito Galvez, Jr. He added that this would ensure a steady supply of vaccines not only for this current crisis but also for future health crises.

To put things in perspective, posted below is an excerpt from the story published through Philippine News Agency (PNA). Some parts in bold…

“We are working on building the country’s vaccine sufficiency, particularly our capacity to manufacture and produce our own vaccines not just to address Covid-19 health crisis, but also to prepare for any future pandemic,” Galvez said at a virtual Economic Development Cluster and Infrastructure Cluster forum for the Pre-State of the Nation Address on Monday.

The Philippines is hoping to replicate the Serum Institute of India (SII), India’s largest vaccine producer which produces the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, known in India as Covishield.

Galvez earlier visited India to negotiate with SII for the acquisition of 30 million doses of the Novavax vaccine.

One of the topics tackled during the trip was the possibility to develop local production of vaccines in the Philippines.

“One of our agenda during our trip to India last month was to look into opportunities that will allow us to build on the same vaccine and medicine manufacturing capacity that India has,” Galvez said.

He said he had met with the Department of Science and Technology Sec. Fortunato de la Peña and Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez along with the country’s vaccine experts to discuss the plan to establish local vaccine production.

The government targets “to encourage foreign vaccine manufacturers to establish domestic operations” on vaccine production in the Philippines, he said.

“We will achieve vaccine security and partner with domestic and international private pharmaceutical companies in developing our own capability in manufacturing vaccines domestically,” he added. “For 2023, we envision for self-sufficiency and readiness for the pandemic and other disasters with the modernization and integration of our healthcare system.”

With the ongoing negotiations of the Philippines for equitable vaccine acquisition, Galvez said the government has earmarked a total of PHP82.5 billion for the procurement of Covid-19 vaccines, of which PHP70 billion have been sourced out from various multilateral loans and assumed savings.

As seen above, the Philippines looked to the largest vaccine maker in India as a model for their plan. If vaccine production does push through in the country in the near future, it should create some new jobs and contribute somewhat to the economy. How much would vaccines cost when made here in the Philippines remains to be seen. The same also with how the national government will convince vaccine makers overseas to establish production lines in the country.

Meanwhile, I encourage you my readers to check out how much progress Israel has achieved with regards to combatting COVID-19, normalizing the lives of their people and setting the stage for an economic rebound. In relation to these details, the Jewish State will reopen its borders to foreign visitors who have already been vaccinated. This means visiting the Holy Land is possible once again for all those who seek the Lord. Israel is a bright example for the world and they deserve a lot of praise. Their success was acknowledged by veteran writer Boo Chanco.

Now if only the vaccines the national government paid for will somehow arrive as fast as possible. The Philippines still has a long way to go before achieving herd immunity and having both society and economy rebound at last from the COVID-19 crisis.

By the way, if you are a resident of Las Piñas City or Muntinlupa City, you can get yourselves registered for COVID-19 vaccines by reading the instructions and details here (Las Piñas) and here (Muntinlupa).

If you have something to say about the current situation of COVID-19 vaccines in the country, or within your city or local community, you may contact me directly online or comment below.

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Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

COVID-19 Crisis: The high cost of ECQ on the Philippine economy

You must be wondering how much of a price did the nation pay as a result of the 2-week ECQ (enhanced community quarantine) ordered on NCR Plus (National Capital Region plus the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal).

The answer? P180 billion in terms of economic losses according to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) accounting for 1% of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP). To put things in perspective, posted below is an excerpt from the Philippine News Agency (PNA) article of April 15, 2021. Some parts in bold…

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has estimated that the country lost 1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) during the two-week enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in National Capital Region (NCR) and four nearby provinces.

During the Laging Handa public briefing Thursday, DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez said the economic loss due to the half-a-month ECQ in NCR, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal (NCR Plus) is equivalent to PHP180 billion.

Earlier, Lopez said around 1.5 million Filipinos had no jobs during the ECQ in NCR Plus, and only 500,000 jobs were brought back when the quarantine classification for areas was downgraded to a less strict modified ECQ (MECQ).

“We want to see lower Covid-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) cases and lower utilization rate of (Covid-19 beds) before we ease the status to GCQ (general community quarantine),” he said in Filipino.

The DTI chief also downplayed speculation that the reopening of economic activities and business establishments became the ‘super spreader’ of Covid-19.

To manage the rate of infection of the coronavirus, Lopez said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) will not allow high-risk and non-essential activities and gatherings.

He added the government must slow down the daily Covid-19 cases while increasing the health care capacity to relax community quarantine status in the NCR Plus.

Clearly, the 2-week ECQ period on NCR Plus was damaging not only to the businesses and people of the affected region but on the Philippine economy as well. What we cannot see yet is exactly how many more people – specifically those who lost jobs in NCR Plus because of ECQ – fell into poverty. Take note that the more people fall into poverty, the more costly it becomes for the local government units (LGUs) and the nation government to provide support to them using taxpayers’ money.

As it has been a week since NCR Plus shifted to MECQ (modified enhanced community quarantine), we will find out soon how much the region and the national economy recovered from the high cost of ECQ.

If you do the math, a single week of ECQ on NCR Plus costs P90 billion. Can you just imagine the dramatic cost to the nation had ECQ went on for a full year of 52 weeks? Do not forget that all the unemployed bad need jobs and income.

Right now, the national government and varied forms of governing units are still struggling to balance themselves between economics and public health during this COVID-19 (China virus) pandemic that has lasted over a year now. No matter how you do your business, how you make your important transactions, follow the health protocols to avoid getting infected with the China virus.

By the way, whenever possible, support the business joints in your local community whenever you need to buy or consume something. By the way, never let the Political Left fool you with their propaganda related to economy and the pandemic.

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Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

For more South Metro Manila community news and developments, come back here soon. Also say NO to fake news, NO to irresponsible journalism, NO to misinformation, NO to plagiarists, NO to reckless publishers and NO to sinister propaganda when it comes to news and developments. For South Metro Manila community developments, member engagements, commerce and other relevant updates, join the growing South Metro Manila Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/342183059992673

COVID-19 Crisis: DTI says restaurants in MECQ areas are allowed to have outdoor dining

In what is clearly a move with economic recovery in mind, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez declared that restaurants (located in places under MECQ or modified enhanced community quarantine status) with outdoor dining services and set-ups are allowed to resume but with certain limitations.

To make things clear, below is an excerpt from the Philippine News Agency (PNA) article which was published just yesterday. For greater emphasis, some parts are in bold.

In a text message to reporters Sunday night, Lopez said food establishments with alfresco dining services are only allowed up to 50 percent capacity, with diagonal seating arrangement and acrylic dividers on tables.

He added that indoor dine-in services are still not allowed in areas under MECQ, but food establishments can continue to operate with their take-out and delivery services.

From April 12 to 30, the National Capital Region, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal or the NCR Plus as well as Santiago City in Isabela, and the provinces of Quirino and Abra were also placed under MECQ.

Earlier, the DTI chief said that the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) might be sensitive in allowing indoor dine-in due to the highly contagious new variants of Covid-19.

“The IATF recommended to the President to shift to MECQ after two weeks of ECQ to restore more jobs and livelihood for the people,” Lopez said.

Clearly the local authorities are trying hard to balance themselves between economics and public health as new cases of COVID-19 (China Virus) continue to be counted in very high numbers on a daily basis in recent times. On April 2, the count of infections reached over 15,000.

Going back to the issue of allowing restaurants with outdoor dining (AKA alfresco) within the MECQ areas, it is good news that they are allowed to resume operations. It will still be a challenge for food establishments to attract enough paying customers and make their business’ financial ends meet.

On a personal experience, I love eating ramen and Tsukemen at Sigekiya Ramen in Alabang. I prefer that such meals would be cooked by the restaurant and be served to me at a table at their place. The alternative of taking the cooked ramen out and consume it at home is just not a convincing option for me because ramen is meant to be consumed quickly while it is hot. The alternative of taking home ingredients and noodles, and have them cooked at home does not appeal to me as I prefer Sigekiya’s cooks make the meal I paid for.

A delicious meal like this one is best to be eaten at the restaurant, even outdoors.

Also located in Alabang is the local branch of Akrotiri, a really fine restaurant that serves authentic Greek meals that my family and friends enjoyed. They also have meals that, in my opinion, are best consumed at their place and their Alabang branch (Commercenter to be precise) has space for outdoor dining. It was at Akrotiri Alabang where I treated 2019 SEA Games gold medalist Kim Mangrobang to a meal and organized an exclusive interview with her. They really have a fine-looking place. Visit their website at https://akrotiri.ph/

It is important to keep in mind that restaurants around the nation have struggled a lot since the pandemic started last year. These business establishments are also struggling with retaining their respective employees, notably their cooks, the baristas, waiters and waitresses. Remember that the meals and drinks you enjoy would not be the same when the people who prepared them get laid off.

With the DTI’s declaration of allowing food establishments with outdoor dining setups and services to resume, I encourage you my readers to consider supporting these businesses for your food and beverage needs. If you can’t have a meal with the family outdoors, perhaps you can push through with a business meeting with a corporate associate or reunite with your friend or relative with the outdoor setting of a restaurant while adhering to health protocols (wearing face masks, face shields, sanitizing yourselves, etc.). 

Now, let’s observe how the mayors, the barangay captains and other local authorities in MECQ areas will react to DTI’s declaration. You also might want to check with the local restaurants and coffee shops if they allow outdoor dining. Consider taking time out to call them or verify on their respective social media channels/accounts to see if outdoor dining is allowed.

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Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

For more South Metro Manila community news and developments, come back here soon. Also say NO to fake news, NO to irresponsible journalism, NO to misinformation, NO to plagiarists, NO to reckless publishers and NO to sinister propaganda when it comes to news and developments. For South Metro Manila community developments, member engagements, commerce and other relevant updates, join the growing South Metro Manila Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/342183059992673

DTI issues new memorandum for the reopening of cinemas in GCQ areas starting March 5, 2021

Do you miss watching movies in the cinemas? The COVID-19 pandemic really brought the movie theater industries around the world to a screeching halt which negatively impacted the way movies were distributed and led to the laying off of many employees who worked in the cinemas.

Here in the Philippines, movie theaters are only operating in cities or provinces which are under the state of MGCQ (Modified General Community Quarantine) which has lesser restrictions compared to GCQ (General Community Quarantine). The thing here is that Metro Manila (which is composed of multiple cities that each has its own government) is still under the GCQ level of control and as of this writing, movie theaters still have not reopened.

Just weeks ago, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) announced it will allow a variety of businesses to resume operations and among them are the cinemas. Unsurprisingly, the Metro Manila mayors reacted negatively.

That was back then. Even though President Rodrigo Duterte refused to shift the entire nation into MGCQ status, movie theater operators (and their employees) in Metro Manila and other areas still under GCQ status now have something to be happy with as the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) issued a new memorandum circular allowing movie theaters in GCQ zones to reopen starting March 5, 2021.

Below is an excerpt from the news article published the other night at Philippine News Agency’s website…

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has issued Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 21-08 allowing movie houses in areas under general community quarantine (GCQ) to reopen starting March 5.

The circular stipulates that cinemas in GCQ areas are only allowed to operate up to 25-percent capacity.

However, moviegoers are prohibited to eat and drink, while face masks shall be worn at all times inside the cinema.

A one-meter physical distance on all sides is also required.

“In the event of free seating, cinema staff shall usher customers to their seats to comply with the physical distancing and maximum operational capacity requirements,” the MC said.

On the other hand, cinemas in modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) areas are allowed to operate at 50-percent capacity.

As you can see in the details in the above excerpt, movie theaters in GCQ zones will be allowed to resume operations but with limitations such as 25% maximum capacity (with social distancing implemented) allowed and the prohibition on moviegoers from consuming food and beverages (this limitation will hurt the cinemas’ food and beverage business partners).

As for the requirement to wear face shields inside the cinema, it’s really a detriment because face shields obscure people’s visions and therefore moviegoers won’t be able to enjoy the visuals displayed on the big screen. 

Let’s be honest here…how many people would really want to watch films inside the movie theater without food and beverages, and having to view films with their vision negatively affected by face shields? I can only state that the DTI should reconsider these limitations soon.

It is understandable that safety measures and the health protection for the public are essential for the national authorities to do which explain the limitations for cinemas in GCQ areas. Take note from the excerpt below…

“Following the earlier agreement at the IATF (Inter Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases), DTI issued the circular that will guide the implementation of a safe and gradual reopening of more businesses and economic activities. This is part of our mandate to ensure that as more businesses reopen to provide more jobs and sources of income for our countrymen, the strict health protocols are enforced,” DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez said.

Lopez said while the government continues to reopen more economic and business activities, minimum health measures should be strictly implemented.

The thing which we should observe here in the Philippines is how the local government leaders of GCQ areas will react to DTI’s memorandum circular. Be aware that Metro Manila alone is home to lots of movie theaters, including those with 4D and IMAX technologies. These cinemas, many of which are part of shopping malls, have not operated for almost a year now and they badly need to resume their business not just to serve paying customers but also to take care of their employees such as security guards, ushers, ticket booth operators, film projector operators, etc. Do not forget about the businesses that partnered with cinemas to sell popcorn, snacks and beverages. Right now, economic recovery and job creation are of the utmost importance during this time of pandemic.

Now that you have read this, let me ask you what do you think about this news? Is the DTI right to issue the new memorandum? If you are living in a Metro Manila city, how has your local government leaders reacted to the news? When was the last time you watched a movie inside the cinema? Have you contacted your local cinema operator?

Watch out for further updates right here.

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Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

No vaccine for COVID-19, no MGCQ for the Philippines

People here in Metro Manila who have gotten tired with the general community quarantine (GCQ) limitation during the COVID-19 pandemic will have to wait a bit longer as President Rodrigo Duterte refused to shift the entire nation to the less restrictive modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) status because the vaccination for COVID-19 should be done first.

This was announced during the Cabinet meeting last night. Below is an excerpt from the Philippine News Agency report…

“President Rodrigo Roa Duterte gave his directive to the Cabinet that the Philippines would not be placed under modified general community quarantine unless there is a rollout of vaccines,” he said in a statement.

While Duterte acknowledged the need to reopen the economy, Roque said the President refused to put people’s health and safety at risk.

“The Chief Executive recognizes the importance of reopening the economy and its impact on people’s livelihoods. However, the President gives higher premium to public health and safety,” he added.

The President made it clear that the vaccination roll-out should go first before shifting the entire nation into MGCQ control. While it is clear that reopening the economy is essential, Duterte prefers to take time to be cautious and reduce the risks of new infections. As far as he is concerned, vaccines should go first.

It has already been reported that vaccine shipments to the Philippines have been delayed. This is undoubtedly bad news for the entire nation as there are lots of people who lost their jobs and fell into poverty as restrictions severely brought the economy down. The more people fall down into poverty, the more expensive it becomes for local governments to serve them. Speaking of local governments, the City of Las Piñas made preparations for COVID-19 vaccination and already they are handling the applications of constituents who applied to register themselves. Over at Muntinlupa City, meetings and preparations for COVID-19 vaccines were done.

Going back to Metro Manila, a majority of mayors voted to have the metropolis shift to MGCQ status by March 1. As the President made the rejection and insisted vaccination should go first, business owners, their affected employees and the unemployed will have to wait longer before MGCQ will be declared not only for the National Capital Region (NCR) but for the entire nation. The MGCQ status for the Philippines is key to economic revival which the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) supports.

For those of you reading this, do you think the President made the right decision? Would you insist on declaring an MGCQ status nationwide without the COVID-19 vaccines? Please answer by commenting below. Thank you.

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Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

For more South Metro Manila community news and developments, come back here soon. Also say NO to fake news, NO to irresponsible journalism, NO to misinformation, NO to plagiarists, NO to reckless publishers and NO to sinister propaganda when it comes to news and developments. For South Metro Manila community developments, member engagements, commerce and other relevant updates, join the growing South Metro Manila Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/342183059992673

Majority of Metro Manila Mayors support shift to MGCQ status by March 1, 2021

President Rodrigo Duterte will have a big decision to make that will affect millions of residents and businesses in Metro Manila as a majority of the mayors voted to shift the metropolis from general community quarantine (GCQ) to modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) status by March 1, 2021, as based on a news release on Philippine News Agency (PNA) that got published just last night.

Here’s an excerpt from the PNA report:

The Metro Manila Council (MMC), composed of Metro Manila mayors and national government officials, has voted to support the proposed shift to the less restrictive modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) in Metro Manila.

“Ang karamihan po ng alkalde ng kalakhang maynila ay bumoto na MGCQ na po ang magiging posisyon nila pagdating sa Metro Manila (Most of the mayors in Metro Manila voted for having MGCQ as their position in Metro Manila),” Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chairman Benjamin “Benhur” Abalos Jr. said in a press conference on Thursday.

This, he said, will be sent to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) and to President Rodrigo R. Duterte who will make the final decision on whether to implement eased quarantine restrictions by March 1.

He declined to provide the actual number of votes the proposal received but said that all Metro Manila mayors will support the decision.

Indeed, Abalos did not reveal the number of Yes and No votes but the Manila Bulletin reported that the score among Metro Manila mayors was 9-8 in favor of MGCQ.

To put things in perspective, Metro Manila still has yet to adjust to MGCQ status. Metro Manila is the hot spot of multiple cities where a lot of residents as well as business entities of varied sizes are located at. Right now, the nation needs a major boost to its economy even as there is still the need to be vigilant to avoid new COVID-19 infections. Lots of people in the metropolis remain unemployed and badly need income, and having Metro Manila shift to MGCQ status will help revive other businesses and pave the way for more people to get back to work.

It would be nice to see the Metro Manila Council research more and observe closely how other cities and provinces are doing while maintaining MGCQ statuses for months already.

On a grander scale, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) supports the recommendation to have the entire nation placed under MGCQ status by March. The said recommendation was made by Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua in recent times. Below is an excerpt from the PNA report:

“It is about time we move to MGCQ after a year of lockdown,” Lopez told reporters in a Viber message Tuesday. “Lockdown was supposed to buy us time to prepare our health system and improve contact tracing and ‘Trace-Test-Treat’.”

Since June 2020, the National Capital Region (NCR) has not graduated from GCQ status, a stricter community quarantine measure than MGCQ.

It even went back to much stricter modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) from Aug. 4 to 18 last year as health care facilities in Metro Manila were overwhelmed due to the increasing number of Covid-19 cases during that period.

“As the Philippines recovers, Metro Manila has a very weak recovery, worse in employment and hunger recovery, and that means more urban poor. The damages to malnutrition and other health and social issues will be irreversible,” Lopez said.

NCR accounted for around 40 percent of the Philippine gross domestic product (GDP).

But Lopez added the reopening of more economic activities should depend on the Covid-19 statistics.

As pointed out by Trade secretary Lopez, Metro Manila is lagging behind in terms of recovery from the pandemic. Apart from joblessness and lack of income, poverty in the National Capital Region is an important problem to solve. The more people fall under poverty, the more local government units (LGUs) need to exert and spend their limited resources to support them.

Right now, the Metro Manila Council’s approval of shifting to MGCQ status will soon be dealt with by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) and President Duterte.

In ending this, here are some videos about combatting the China virus.

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For more South Metro Manila community news and developments, come back here soon. Also say NO to fake news, NO to irresponsible journalism, NO to misinformation, NO to plagiarists, NO to reckless publishers and NO to sinister propaganda when it comes to news and developments. For South Metro Manila community developments, member engagements, commerce and other relevant updates, join the growing South Metro Manila Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/342183059992673

A chance for recovery for more Philippine cinemas (and their employees)

Wow. That was quite a ride of information updates that happened the last few days. Last Friday, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) announced that it has allowed a variety of businesses around the Philippines to resume operations so that they can recover from this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Such businesses specified were driving schools, video arcades, theme parks, natural sites, historical landmarks, parks and, most notably of all, cinemas (or movie theaters).

However, the Metro Manila mayors reacted and expressed their opposition against the national government’s decision on allowing cinemas to reopen. Through the media, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chairman Benhur Abalos stated that a “majority of Metro Manila mayors agreed not to open as far as cinema is concerned.”

Below is an excerpt from the Manila Times article on Abalos…

He noted that movie theaters are enclosed and air-conditioned spaces where people stay for more than 30 minutes, conditions that increase the risk of coronavirus transmission.

To put things in perspective, Metro Manila is composed of many major Philippine cities such as Makati, Quezon City, Manila and Muntinlupa to name a few. Until now, Metro Manila remains under GCQ (General Community Quarantine) status while certain other cities or provinces have been enduring the MGCQ (Modified General Community Quarantine) status. As of this writing, the only cinemas operating here in the Philippines are those located in MGCQ areas.

Here in Metro Manila, movie theaters have been closed since March 2020. Take note of that.

As a result of the Metro Manila mayors’ opposition, it has been announced that the reopening of cinemas has been moved to March 1, 2021, but that is not guaranteed. According to the news release published yesterday at Philippine News Agency, the reopening of cinemas in GCQ areas has been moved to the first of March to allow consultations with local officials, and this is the result of talks with MMDA’s Abalos, MMDA General Manager Jojo Garcia and Trade Secretary Lopez.

Malacañang stated in the release: The IATF respects the position of mayors, especially those in Metro Manila. That’s why the resolution stated that the reopening of cinemas will be effective after drafting guidelines with local governments particularly when it comes to seating capacity in cinemas.

As you can see, there is still some work needed to be done before Metro Manila movie theaters (or any theaters in GCQ areas in general) can be allowed to reopen. This is why, in my view, the March 1 target for reopening could be missed.

More on the cinemas, I wonder if the Metro Manila mayors and their advisers did enough research about the economics. I understand they want to avoid the risk of people getting infected with COVID-19 within their respective cities, but there is still the need for economic recovery even if cinemas are to operate at less than 100% capacity and efficiency

From an economic point of view, thanks to information released by Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, the so-called traditional cinema industry of the nation employed 300,000 workers and had generated revenues of P13 billion BEFORE the pandemic started last year. Because of the pandemic, 2020 theater revenues shrunk down to only P1.3 billion.

Whatever happened to them as a result of the pandemic, 300,000 cinema employees is a figure that should not be ignored nor dismissed so quickly by the mayors and their advisers. Economic recovery is a must.

In an ABS-CBN news report, the cinema operators and movie producers have decided to adopt a so-called wait-and-see approach on the reopening of cinemas in GCQ areas.

Here’s an excerpt from the report:

Although they welcome the easing of quarantine restrictions, local producers and theater operators believe that ultimately, the reopening of cinemas will still be dependent on the clearance of local government units.

Roselle Monteverde and Vincent del Rosario, who helm Regal and Viva Entertainment, respectively, told ABS-CBN News that they have the capability to provide cinemas with movie material, some of which have long been canned. Nonetheless, along with other members of the local producers association, the movie magnates are still awaiting the IATF guidelines and, more important, the guidance of mayors.

And here’s another excerpt, this time about two major cinema chain operators.

Megaworld Cinemas and SM Cinemas, which both control a vast chain of theater chains, told ABS-CBN News that they will wait for the final guidelines of the IATF and local government units.

Bomboy Lim of Robinson Cinemas also told ABS-CBN News that the bottomline is securing the approval of local government units. “Priority din namin ang ligtas na panonood ng tao. Kailangan nating sundin ang lahat ng guidelines including the IATF. Right now, they are still making it.”

Robinson Cinemas, which has an estimated 200 theaters nationwide in its malls nationwide, have not reopened since March 2020.

Over at the City of Manila, the local authorities there announced it will offer free swab tests to movie theater workers within their jurisdiction. Mayor Isko Moreno said that the swab tests are required before the city government allows malls to open their movie houses. Cinema workers specified are janitors, security guards, tellers, ushers, porters, ticket sellers and snack bar attendants to name some. Managers of malls in the city were asked by the mayor to present to the city government their respective preparations for the reopening of their cinemas with public safety in mind.

As I personally observed in shopping malls with cinemas here in South Metro Manila, each of them has established rules and set up special equipment to monitor the health statuses of people entering their respective places. I can imagine local cinemas inside these malls having similar equipment, disinfectant machines, and temperature scanners. It would be helpful if the malls or cinema operators can afford to set up sanitation tunnels (like those in Israel) for moviegoers to pass thru when entering and exiting the movie theater. Watch the video below…

Even though things look unclear, the fact remains is that operators of movie theaters and their employees now have a chance to resume their business and do their part in the recovery economically and socially. How the IATF and the Metro Manila mayors will decide the fate of the cinemas remains to be seen.

If there are any major updates, you will be notified right here at www.CarloCarrasco.com

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CREATE bill to boost Philippine economy by cutting corporate income tax and implementing incentives

Yesterday, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez announced that the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) Act is aimed to reduce the corporate income tax which should lead to creating more jobs as well as attracting investments.

Given the dramatic fall of the Philippine economy as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the CREATE bill could be the big solution to boost the economy and pave the way for recovery. For almost a year now, the said pandemic caused a lot of people to lose their jobs and much of their income. A lot of businesses closed down as well.

For your reference, here is a long excerpt of the news release about the said bill published via Philippine News Agency (PNA). Key words are highlighted in bold:

The recent bicameral approval of the game-changing CREATE Act can also provide a big boost to the National Employment Recovery Strategy (NERS) Task Force chaired by the DTI and co-chaired by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), which was signed last Feb. 5 by several agencies.  

“The landmark tax and incentives reform bill that we expect to be signed by the President is expected to bring in (a) massive inflow of investments that will create more jobs, especially as we focus efforts in the National Employment Recovery during this period of the pandemic and beyond. The passing of CREATE will firm up the tax and incentive reforms that will make the investment climate significantly more attractive than the current tax and incentive regime,” Lopez said in a statement.

He said the bill will certainly encourage more investments with the lowering of the corporate income taxes rate from 30 percent to 20 percent for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), and 25 percent for large corporations.

“Modernizing the incentives system likewise makes the incentives such as income tax holiday (ITH), special corporate income tax rates (SCIT) or enhanced deductions (ED), available to industries considered strategic, critical or export oriented,” he added.

The Trade chief said the length of incentives, such as four to seven years of ITH plus five or 10 years of SCIT or ED, will depend on the nature of industry, export or domestic oriented, degree of technology and value adding, and geographical location, with additional years outside the Metro Manila and urban centers.

“There is also (a) longer transition period for those currently granted incentives. Thus, incentives are now made more performance-based, focused and timebound,” Lopez said.

CREATE is a bill certified urgent by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte upon the recommendation of the economic team led by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III.

Lopez also thanked the legislators at the Senate and the House of Representatives, with Sen. Pia Cayetano and Rep. Joey Salceda, respectively, as principal authors, for the hard work of the committee members in bringing the CREATE bill to fruition.

“The passing of CREATE will unleash the growth potential of investments by removing uncertainties during the period that the bill was under deliberation,” Lopez said. “Based on our estimate and those from Cong. Joey Salceda, CREATE can bring in over PHP200 billion of new investments that can generate 1.4 (million) to 2 million incremental jobs.”

CREATE will help boost investments in the Philippines, which would support the 2021 target of the Board of Investments (BOI) of PHP1.25-trillion investment approvals.

A report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) had also estimated that the Philippines bucked the trend in Southeast Asia, and had increased its foreign direct investments (FDIs) during the pandemic by 29 percent last year.

Meanwhile, the NERS 2021-2023 is a medium-term plan anchored on the updated Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 and ReCharge PH by expanding the Trabaho, Negosyo, Kabuhayan initiative and improving access and security of employment.

The strategy also takes into consideration the changes in the labor market brought about by the pandemic and the fast adoption of Fourth Industrial Revolution (FIRe) technologies.

“NERS shall also consolidate all measures, programs, and institutions that influence the demand and supply of labor, as well as the functioning of labor markets,” Lopez said.

Members of NERS Oversight Committee include the Departments of Transportation (DOTr), Tourism (DOT), Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Science and Technology (DOST), Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Agriculture (DA), Agrarian Reform (DAR), Interior and Local Government (DILG), Information and Communications Technology (DICT),  Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Education (DepEd), Commission on Higher Education (CHED), and National Security Council (NSC), as well as the Office of the Cabinet Secretary (OCS), Departments of Finance (DOF) and Budget and Management (DBM), and the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III said: “This JMC (joint memorandum circular) will fortify our collective undertaking as a Task Force working to develop a policy environment that encourages the generation of more employment opportunities, improves employability and productivity of workers, and supports existing and emerging businesses.”

Lopez further stressed the importance of continuing with the calibrated and safe reopening of the economy to allow the country to regain the growth momentum that it had before the pandemic. 

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Muntinlupa City named 5th Most Competitive City among Highly Urbanized Cities as per CMCI 2020 rankings

Muntinlupa City now ranks 5th among Highly Urbanized Cities in the Philippines, three notches higher than its previous ranking, based on the Cities and Municipalities Competitiveness Index (CMCI) 2020 Rankings released during the 8th Regional Competitiveness Virtual Summit this past December 16.

CMCI is an annual ranking of Philippine cities and municipalities developed by the Department of Trade and Industry and National Competitiveness Council with the assistance of the United States Agency for International Development.

Muntinlupa was adjudged Top 5 Most Competitive City among HUC’s in the country following the cities of Makati (Top 4), Pasay (Top 3), Davao (Top 2), and Manila (Top 1). The city previously ranked 8th in the 2019 Overall Competitiveness Index and 10th place in 2018. Local government units in the country were ranked on four convergent pillars namely Economic Dynamism, Government Efficiency, Infrastructure, and Resilience.

The National Competitiveness Council has named Muntinlupa City as Rank 1 in the Resilience Pillar – HUC category this year besting at least 145 cities in the country. Finalists in the category include Valenzuela City (Rank 2) and Manila City (Rank 3).

The city has also moved one step higher from the previous year in Government Efficiency and Infrastructure pillars both from Rank 7 to Rank 6.

Mayor Jaime Fresnedi attributed the recognition to the local government’s thrust in streamlining disaster resilience in development planning and improving the local government’s processes and transaction procedures. The local exec thanked the NCC for the award and said that it will serve as an inspiration to bring better services in the city.

“Being in the Top 5 of Overall Competitive Cities is a testament that the City Government is in the right track in fostering good governance and providing more effective programs for Muntinlupeños,” Fresnedi said.

The National Competitiveness Council was organized through Executive Order No. 44 which aims to promote a more competitive Philippines and instill a culture of excellence, through public-private sector collaboration as means to reduce poverty through inclusive growth.

Cities and municipalities are ranked on their competitiveness based on an overall competitiveness score. Scores are determined by the values of the actual data, as well as the completeness of the submitted data submitted by local government units.

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The above information and images were provided by the City Government of Muntinlupa for the purpose of public information and transparency. Some parts were edited for this website.

For more South Metro Manila community news and developments, come back here soon. Also say NO to fake news, NO to irresponsible journalism, NO to misinformation, NO to plagiarists, NO to reckless publishers and NO to sinister propaganda when it comes to news and developments. For South Metro Manila community developments, member engagements, commerce and other relevant updates, join the growing South Metro Manila Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/342183059992673