Good day. Here are the stories for The Manila Times for Thursday, April 29, 2021.
The delayed arrival of vaccines has forced the government to review its strategy on how to effectively distribute available doses, taking into consideration the explosion of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases in India. The Department of Health (DoH) said the vaccine cluster is “restrategizing” the vaccine rollout with the delayed arrival of Gamaleya’s Sputnik V vaccine because of logistical challenges. Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the government’s vaccine cluster is reviewing the vaccination rollout to determine how to apportion other vaccines that will arrive in the country.
The World Health Organization said Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) that a variant of Covid-19 feared to be contributing to a surge in coronavirus cases in India has been found in over a dozen countries. The UN health agency said the B.1.617 variant first found in India had been detected in over 1,200 sequences uploaded to the GISAID open-access database “from at least 17 countries.”
SEN. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go on Wednesday called on the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to continuously review and adjust the travel protocols in place to prevent the entry of new and potentially more infectious Covid-19 variants from other countries. Following a devastating second wave of infections in India, Go lauded the decision of the government to immediately impose restrictions on travelers coming from that country. He issued an urgent appeal to concerned authorities to study the imposition of similar restrictions on travelers from other countries, such as Brazil, which have a high number of confirmed and active cases.
United States Covid-19 vaccine maker Moderna and Zuellig Pharma Corp. jointly requested the Philippine Food and Drug Administration for an emergency use authorization (EUA) for mRNA-1273. Moderna has appointed Zuellig’s commercial division ZP Therapeutics as its vaccine distributor in the Philippines. FDA Director-General Rolando Enrique Domingo said its vaccine panel was examining the data submitted by Zuellig. Vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. welcomed the development, saying it would allow the country to attain its goal of vaccinating 70 million Filipinos this year.
THE Senate and the executive branch are trying to work out a compromise on lawmakers’ demand that Malacañang withdraw the directive increasing pork importation and lowering the tariff on pork imports. Senate President Vicente Sotto 3rd, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson on Wednesday said “backchanneling” talks were underway. They refused to elaborate. Some senators earlier appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte to withdraw Executive Order 128 that raised pork importation from 54,000 metric tons (MT) to 404,000 MT and lowered tariff on meat imports to address scarce supply because of the African swine fever (ASF).
METRO Manila (MM) mayors have agreed to a shorter unified curfew — from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. — starting May 1. The resolution was approved and signed by all Metro Manila local chief executives on Tuesday. Earlier, the MMC implemented unified curfew hours from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. starting April 12 until April 30. MMDA Chairman Benjamin “Benhur” Abalos Jr. said another quarantine classification was added to the option of the mayors: the so-called hybrid modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ).
BUSINESS: ADB cuts PH growth forecast
Topping business, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) downgraded its 2021 Philippine economic growth forecast to take into account the impact of more stringent quarantine measures in the economy. In the Asian Development Outlook (ADO) 2021 report released on Wednesday ADB said the Philippine economy is projected to grow by 4.5 percent this year, down from the earlier 6.5 percent forecast.
In sports, Filipino weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz will no longer return to the Philippines until she finishes competing in her fourth Olympic stint in Tokyo in July. Samahang Weightlifter ng Pilipinas president Monico Puentevella shared that Diaz, a silver medalist in the 2016 Rio Games, is headed back to Malaysia to resume her training for the Olympics. Prior to the Asian Weightlifting Championships in Tashkent, Uzbekistan where she finished fourth, Diaz spent 14 months in Malaysia to train as her initial stay there coincided with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, where strict travel restrictions were imposed.
READ: Opinion and editorial
Yen Makabenta, Ramon Tulfo and Arch. Felino Palafox Jr. are today’s front page columnists. Makabenta, citing a report from The Economist, claims China is turning to Western vaccine technology to expand vaccine use, Tulfo says Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade’s “rant” should not go unpunished, while Arch. Palafox talks about 100 new cities by 2050.
Today’s editorial focuses on the Department of Trade and Industry standing up to motorcycle buyers. Read a full version on the paper’s opinion section or listen to the Voice of the Times.
Experts on financial technology and communications will discuss the importance of digital solutions in the Philippine economic recovery at The Manila Times online business forum on Thursday, April 29. The forum, “Cut-through, countrywide digital solutions,” will tackle direct and inclusive solutions for fast-tracked connectivity that are critical for the recovery of the economy. Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) Director General Jeremiah Belgica is the keynote speaker. Belgica is the first director general of ARTA since its creation on June 17, 2018. Another speaker is John Owens, the fintech lead for UK FCDO Asean Economic Reform Program. He is an attorney and senior advisor who worked on financial inclusion and digital efforts in the Philippines for 25 years. Globe Telecoms’ director for technology strategy Gerhard Tan will also share his expertise during the forum. Currently, he is responsible for Globe’s three- to five-year technology strategy, emerging technology adoption, network technology innovation, and the new technology solutions testing, validation and integration of new services and technologies into Globe’s network, including 5G, internet of things and its various applications that include intelligent communities. Broadcast live on The Manila Times Facebook page and YouTube channel from 10 a.m. to 12 noon, the forum will be moderated by The Times President and Chief Executive Officer Dante “Klink” Ang 2nd and business columnist Ben Kritz. See you there!
With Dafort Villaseran, this is Aric John Sy Cua reporting. May you have a safe Thursday ahead.