Nationwide round-up (04/07/21)

Ivermectin sale illegal — DoH

THE SALE of the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin as a coronavirus treatment is illegal and violates the law that created the local Food and Drug Administration (FDA), according to the Department of Health (DOH).

“Specific to that law, we can’t allow the use of unregistered drugs,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire told an online news briefing in mixed English and Filipino.

Only doctors and other health professionals may distribute the drugs, she added. Under the law, violators may be fined P50,000 to P500,000 and jailed for one to 10 years.

If the violator is a distributor, manufacturer, or distributor, he can be imprisoned from five to 10 years and fined P500,000 to P5 million.

The law also prohibits the manufacture, importation, exportation, sale, transfer, nonconsumer use, promotion, advertising or sponsorship of any health products that are “adulterated, unregistered or misbranded.”

The FDA last month warned the public against the use of ivermectin against the COVID-19 virus, saying the only registered ivermectin products in the country are for animals.

The registered ivermectin for human use is only used to treat head lice and skin conditions. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

Philippines eyes travel pass

THE PHILIPPINES may require a COVID-19 travel pass for tourists when international travel resumes, according to the Department of Tourism (DoT).

“This move is parallel with the steps undertaken by other countries that have successfully relaxed borders to visitors amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said in an e-mailed statement on Wednesday.

The agency might adopt the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) travel pass technology for visitors to the Philippines, she said.

International airlines including Emirates and Qatar Airways are testing the IATA mobile travel pass that contains information on passenger COVID-19 test results and vaccination status. Through the travel pass, passengers can also access information on other countries’ COVID-19 rules.

Ms. Puyat said the agency is working on gradually reopening tourist destinations.

“Once the country’s adoption of the IATA Travel Pass is put into motion, the DoT hopes to safely reopen our tourist destinations to international visitors and revive the tourism industry as a whole,” she said. “But this will be done only when the time is right.”

IATA represents about 290 airlines in 120 countries, or 82% of global commercial air traffic. Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines are both IATA members. — Jenina P. Ibanez

Senators slam red-tagging

MINORITY members of the Senate on Wednesday criticized the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) for falsely linking the Senate workers’ union to communist and terrorist groups

Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon, Sen. Risa N. Hontiveros-Baraquel, Sen. Leila M. de Lima and Sen. Francis N. Pangilinan said the union only upholds the interest and welfare of Senate employees.

“We strongly condemn the red-tagging of the union of Senate employees and we vehemently denounce government officials who continue to label, brand, vilify and harass individuals and organizations such as SENADO as state enemies and subversives,” they said.

The attack on the union is an attack on the Senate, they added.

The senators belied the claim of NICA Director-General Alex Paul Monteagudo on Facebook that the union had acted as the “eyes and ears” of maoist rebels to hijack government programs.

“These are dangerous allegations to make,” they said. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

Immigration bureau reiterates ban

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Wednesday said Filipinos’ foreign spouses and their children without valid visas would not be allowed entry until April 21 amid a fresh surge in coronavirus infections.

These foreigners must have valid visas to be able to enter the Philippines, Immigration Commissioner Jaime H. Morente said in an e-mailed statement.

He said airlines and ships must ensure that only foreigners eligible to enter the country during the implementation of the travel restrictions are allowed to board their Philippine-bound flights.

The government reimposed the travel restriction on the entry of foreigners on March 22 amid a spike in infections. The task force limited inbound foreign travelers to 1,500 daily. The restrictions are effective until April 21. — Bianca Angelica D. Anago

Freedom of information law sought

THE MAKATI Business Club (MBC) urged the government to improve transparency, which it said is critical to investments, as the House of Representatives started hearings on a proposed Freedom of Information law.

“Access to government information generates confidence in investment planning and creates a level playing field for the private sector,” MBC Director Roxanne Lu told the House committee on public information.

The passage of the bill is crucial especially during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, she said.

The House body seeks to consolidate 19 bills aiming to improve freedom of information. If legislated, the measure will oblige public officials and agencies to disclose transactions.

The bill will cover all branches of the government, local government units and other government entities such as state schools, organizations and companies.

Muntinlupa Rep. Rufino B. Biazon, who authored one of the bills, said there is still no enabling law on freedom of information since it was provided for in the 1987 Constitution more than three decades ago. — Gillian M. Cortez

Senator decries underspending

A SENATOR on Wednesday welcomed the call for a special session to discuss further stimulus funds amid a coronavirus pandemic.

But the government should ensure that previous stimulus measures meant to help the poor have been enforced, Senator Emmanuel Joel J. Villanueva said in a statement.

“Legislation is not the main solution, executive action is,” said the lawmaker, who heads the Senate labor committee.

“The main cures to COVID-19 and its deadly effect on lives and livelihood are not waiting to be legislated, but to be implemented,” he said. “Case in point is the new COVID-19 Vaccination Law, a great law in need of good implementation.”

Senator Franklin M. Drilon on Tuesday urged President Rodrigo R. Duterte to call for a special session so Congress can approve a measure that will augment the government’s pandemic response and expand the cash subsidy for poor Filipinos.

Mr. Villanueva cited P165.6 billion in underspending of funds approved by Congress under previous stimulus measures.

While the amount had been released to agencies, the amount obliged by the agencies stood at P77.5 billion, he said, citing a report by the Budget department to the Senate in February.

About P38 billion of the P77.5 billion had been disbursed, he said.

“What we need are not new Republic Acts, but for the people in government to get their act together,” Mr. Villanueva said. “But if there are gaps that would require congressional action and approval, then let us do it.” — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

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