Damage from 4 typhoons estimated at P38B
THE four typhoons that hit the country since late October has cost the country about P38 billion in output losses, but Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua said on Tuesday this remains a “manageable” amount.
Citing preliminary data, Mr. Chua said the damage caused by typhoon Rolly (international name: Goni) alone, the world’s strongest typhoon so far this year, was estimated at P24 billion or equivalent to 0.13% of the country’s nominal gross domestic product (GDP).
The cost of destruction caused by the four typhoons combined — Pepito (Saudel), Quinta (Molave), Rolly (Goni) and Siony (Atsani) — translate to 0.21% of GDP.
“Our GDP is almost P18 trillion so if we put them all together, the impact on the country’s growth rate, preliminarily, is around a reduction of 0.055 percentage points, so I think this is a manageable level,” he said in a press conference.
“What is important is we fast-track the recovery so that more people will be reintegrated back after the disaster phase,” he added.
The projected damage of typhoons and other disasters triggered by storms such as landslides and flash floods had always been considered when the economic team made their economic projections, said Mr. Chua.
“Typhoons or natural disasters arising from typhoons are recurring events which we have already internalized in our estimates although sometimes typhoons can be more destructive so these are being factored in (the government’s economic forecasts),” he said.
The World Bank estimates that the country suffers P177 billion on average in losses to public and private assets due to typhoons and earthquakes each year.
Latest data showed the country slumped by 11.5% in the third quarter to record its third straight quarter of contraction this year.
Last quarter’s print has been tempered by the 1.6% increase in the agriculture sector, the only one that has been recording growth since the second quarter among the three main economic sectors.
However, agriculture was among the hardest-hit sectors by the typhoons, which incurred P5 billion in output losses from typhoon Rolly and P2.66 billion from Quinta as of Monday, based on the estimates by the Agriculture department.
In the power sector, typhoon Rolly’s projected cost of damage to electric cooperatives’ facilities climbed to P371.41 million as of Tuesday, the National Electrification Administration (NEA) reported.
NEA also said power supply has been restored to 2.1 million households or 67.91 % in the Bicol region and other affected areas.
About 671,349 consumers remain without access to power. — Beatrice M. Laforga and Angelica Y. Yang
Updated immigration law needed to fight corruption—Morente
IMMIGRATION Commissioner Jaime H. Morente said passing a new law on the Bureau of Immigration (BI) will solve the corruption in the agency.
In a statement on Tuesday, Mr. Morente said many provisions in the Philippine Immigration Act of 1940, which was enacted at a time when there were no international flights into the country yet, are “already outdated and inappropriate.”
He said updating the existing immigration law “may yet cure systemic problems that breed corruption.”
“We can remove people again and again, but the loopholes in the law remain,” he said.
He said the pending bills in Congress will address “salary woes, remove systemic issues, plug loopholes in policies, update fines and penalties, ensure division of power, and confer to the Commissioner the proper disciplinary powers.”
In the meantime, he added, two steps of the “three-tier approach” is already being implemented to address anomalies.
The first is the “short-term solution” of relieving those found to be involved in corrupt practices and second is the “medium-term solution” of reorganizing the system and adding “layers of check and balances.”
The “real and long-term solution” is updating the Philippine Immigration Act, he said.
At least 86 Immigration personnel are facing graft complaints over their involvement in the money-making scheme of facilitating the illegal entry of foreign nationals.
These suspended BI officers were summoned to Malacañang on Monday night where President Rodrigo R. Duterte gave them a “warning,” according to his spokesperson. —Vann Marlo M. Villegas and Gillian M. Cortez
Labor dispute settlement now online
LABOR disputes can now be settled virtually with the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) implementing an online conciliation-mediation system to minimize face-to-face contact amid the coronavirus threat.
In a statement on Tuesday, DoLE said it has released guidelines on the online Single Entry Approach (e-SEnA) program through Administrative Order No. 215, series of 2020. This will allow parties to file their request for assistance online instead of physically visiting the Single Entry Assistance Desk.
The DoLE said the SEnA is “an administrative approach that aims to provide speedy, impartial, inexpensive, and accessible settlement procedures of all labor issues or conflicts to prevent them from ripening into full-blown disputes or actual labor cases.”
The SEnA forms may be accessed at https://sena.dole.gov.ph.
Discussions on the SEnA conference will be conducted among the parties with the SEnA Desk Officer before the notice of conference is given out through courier services, facsimile, electronic mail, or other digital platforms.
The SEnA conference will be done through video conferencing or teleconferencing. In case a party does not have any digital platform available, a face-to-face conference can be held but will be subject to strict health protocols. — Gillian M. Cortez
Bill providing seniors free dialysis filed
A MEASURE seeking to provide free dialysis for senior citizens through full reimbursement to hospitals has been filed at the House of Representatives.
House Bill 7859, or the Free Dialysis for Senior Citizens Act, mandates the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) to “as soon as possible reimburse” all the expenses hospitals incurred for the dialysis sessions of seniors.
“PhilHealth shall as soon as possible reimburse all official receipts for drugs, supplies, and laboratory procedures dated 30 days prior to the date of the claimed session,” the bill states.
“Seniors are unable to spend their pension on dialysis treatments because the pension payments to them are barely enough for survival needs,” Senior Party-list Rep. Rodolfo Ordanes said in a statement.
PhilHealth’s current 90 sessions coverage is “unjust because it imposes upon seniors and their families the cost burden of the 54 sessions not covered in the common 144 sessions dialysis patients need to undergo,”he added. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza
PHL envoy reelected to UN committee seat
PHILIPPINE Ambassador Rosario G. Manalo has been reelected to a seat in the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (UN-CEDAW), the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) announced on Tuesday.
“She is widely-recognized as a champion of women’s rights in the PH, in the region, through ASEAN, and the international community,” the DFA said in a social media post.
“In her service, she has acquired invaluable knowledge and vast expertise in various capacities in ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and the UN.” Ms. Manalo, who was re-elected on Nov. 9, was one of 19 candidates who vied for 11 highly contested seats.
“Amb. Manalo is my country’s most eminently-qualified candidate to serve a new term as member of the said Committee,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. said.
Ms. Manalo has served as a senior adviser for the DFA since 2002 and currently sits as chairperson of the Independent Commission of Enquiry, according to her curriculum vitae posted on the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights website.
She is also director of the Center for Gender Equality and People Empowerment and dean of the Helena Z. Benitez School of International Relations and Diplomacy at the Philippine Women’s University. — Charmaine A. Tadalan