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OFWs stage noisier ‘kalampagan’ vs. mandatory PhilHealth

Posted on 01 June 2020 No comments
By Vir B. Lumicao
Balladares-Pelaez gave the signal for the start of the multi-site noise barrage from Chater Road

Filipino migrant groups have staged a “special edition” noise barrage in Central to demand the scrapping of mandatory membership in PhilHealth, which they warned will resume collecting sharply higher premiums this month.

Scores of overseas Filipino workers simultaneously banged pans, railings, plastic bottles and other receptacles at 2pm yesterday Sunday, after a signal from Dolores Balladares-Pelaez, chairperson of the United Filipinos in Hong Kong, on Chater Road.   

Other groups of migrants at Tamar Park, Hong Kong Bank, Star Ferry Pier, General Post Office and City Hall Bus 13 stop joined in the noise barrage to protest the collection of no less than 450% of the current premium paid by OFWs.

The protesters based their claim from a television interview on May 16 by Dr Shirley Domingo, PhilHealth spokesperson and vice president for corporate affairs, who said all  Filipinos working and living abroad will be charged the new rate starting Jun 1.

Under RA 11223 which took effect in December last year, all migrant workers must pay 3% of their monthly salary to PhilHealth. This means OFWs who used to pay a fixed annual premium of Php2,800 will now be forced to shell out no less than Php10,800 per year.

It is unclear, however, how the mandatory collection could be enforced as the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration has publicly stated that it will not allow the overseas employment certificate, which OFWs need to fly out of the country, linked to the payment of PhilHealth premium.
OFWs make noise to call for voluntary PhilHealth membership and lower premium

Responding to angry protests from hundreds of thousands of OFWs, President Rodrigo Duterte also directed on May 4 that contributions to PhilHealth would only voluntary amid the raging pandemic.

However, no written directive was issued to this effect, and PhilHealth has maintained its right to collect the mandatory contribution under RA 11223, also known as the Universal Health Care Act.

Balladares-Pelaez said it is necessary to show the government that the OFWs are united in opposing mandatory membership and the new PhilHealth premiums.

Last Wednesday, Migrante International leaders renewed in a global online rally their call against mandatory PhilHealth contribution and urged all Filipino workers to support House Bill 6698 which seeks to amend the law to make membership voluntary.

Covid-19 cases in Phl top 18,000 as more MManila businesses reopen

Posted on No comments
By The SUN

UP-PGH staff with journalist Howie Severino who donated his blood plasma after recovering from Covid-19

The Philippines has recorded 862 more Covid-19 cases on Sunday, May 31, bringing the country’s total tally to 18,086, on the eve of Metro Manila’s shift to a more relaxed general community quarantine.

Under the new scheme, more businesses will reopen, with those providing essential services such as agriculture, manufacturing, hospitals, telecommunications, groceries, public markets, and media allowed to resume at full capacity.

Venues where people gather in large numbers such as malls will have restricted operations, and will be required to follow certain health protocols,  including the wearing of face masks, temperature checks and installation of footbaths at the entrance, and physical distancing inside the venues.

Businesses that will be allowed to operate at 50% capacity include beauty parlors and barber shops, film, music and television production, postal and courier services, pawnshops and money transfer outlets.

Leisure venues such as cinemas, theaters, karaoke lounges, beer houses, clubs, comedy bars and gyms will remain shut.

Rail services, including the MRT, LRT and the PNR, will resume but with limited capacity, while some 23,000 taxi and private-hire vehicles such as those licensed with Grab will be allowed to service commuters. Public buses and jeepneys will remain off the streets.

Pindutin para sa detalye!

Transportation officials said there will be no fare increases and only no-cash transactions will be allowed. Passengers and drivers will all have to wear masks.

Several airlines, including Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific and Air Asia, are also set to fly in phases on international and domestic routes. The three local airlines have not flown since Febuary, after the government implemented travel restrictions.

All courts will resume hearings, and schools will start remote enrollment.

Meanwhile, the country’s biggest business groups, along with non-government organizations, have expressed their disappointment with public officials who violated security and health protocols while the country was on lockdown.
The groups issued a joint statement calling on the administration to apply the law for everyone, and ensure faith in the country’s justice system.

The statement was signed by the American and Canadian chambers of commerce, Makati Business Club, Management Association of the Philippines, Judicial Reform Index, Financial Executives of the Philippines, Institute of Corporate Directors and the Institute for Solidarity in Asia.
Uson got flak for speaking before a large group of  OFWs under quarantine
Among the officials publicized for violating the health protocols were Senator Aquilino Pimentel III who took  his pregnant wife to hospital while under quarantine, OWWA Deputy Administrator Mocha Uson who spoke to a large gathering of overseas Filipino workers under quarantine in Batangas, and National Capital Region police chief Major General Debold Sinas who recently celebrated his birthday with numerous guests.
In its daily briefing today, the Department of Health (DOH) said only 16 of the additional cases were “fresh” cases, meaning the result was released to the patient within three days, while the rest are all “late” cases.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the late cases came from the complete “line list” or results of 27 laboratories and the partial result of one other facility.

She said no more late cases will be reported until 14 other laboratories have submitted their test results.

A total of 318,356 individuals have been tested by 48 accredited laboratories and other medical facilities across the country.

Of the confirmed cases, an additional 101 patients recovered from the disease today, bringing the total number to 3,909 or about 20% of all infected patients. The death toll climbed to 957, with seven new fatalities.

The rest of the patients, or 12,466 are active cases, 94 percent of which are mild. Of the remainder, 680 are asymptomatic, while 55 are severe and 18 are in critical condition.

Among the fresh cases, six were from Metro Manila, while the remaining 10 were spread out across the country.

Of the late cases, 238 came from Metro Manila, 235 were repatriates, 81 were from Region VII, and the 292 other patients came from various areas nationwide.

HK records 2 new local transmissions, first in 2 weeks

Posted on No comments
By The SUN

The first local transmission in two weeks is suspected to have spread in the workplace

A 34-year-old local woman and her 56-year-old husband have both tested positive for Covid-19, the first case of local transmission in two weeks. They raised Hong Kong's total tally to 1,084.

Two fellow workers of the woman at an imported food warehouse also tested weak positive for the disease, but have not been logged as confirmed cases.  Both reported having symptoms late last month, leading officials to suspect a workplace transmission.
According to health officials, three medical staff who had attended to the woman when she was first sent to hospital were not wearing a full set of protective clothing.

Dr Sara Ho Yuen-ha, the Hospital Authority’s chief manager for patient safety and risk management, revealed at the daily briefing that three of the emergency medical staff who attended to the woman had not been wearing the full set of protective clothing.

“The patient was already in critical condition when she first arrived at the accident and emergency department and was losing consciousness, so some medical staff volunteered to help,” said Dr Sara Ho Yuen-ha, the Hospital Authority’s chief manager for patient safety and risk management.

She said it was later discovered that a doctor, a nurse and a medical assistant had not worn protective gowns. They have been quarantined for 14 days as close contacts of the confirmed patient.

Also at the press briefing, Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan of the Centre for Health Protection said the two other women who tested weak positive had been sick much earlier, between April 25 and 27, suggesting transmission at the workplace.
Chuang says private doctors should send patients with symptoms for testing

Like the first case, neither had any travel history.

“As the two women who tested weak positive had symptoms earlier than the confirmed patient, there is a chance of a transmission chain within the warehouse,” Chuang said. “But we are still investigating the exact path the virus was passed.”

The three women worked the night shift at a Kerry Logistics warehouse in Kwai Chung labelling pre-packaged fruit and vegetables from the United Kingdom. Their 25 other colleagues there will be sent to quarantine centres.

Up to 100 other people who worked in the same building will also be asked to give samples for testing.

The last local infection before this was reported on May 14, a 62-year-old man who lives in Tsuen Wan. He is suspected to have infected his 66-year-old wife and five-year-old granddaughter who tested positive earlier.

The couple in the latest cases lives in Lek Yuen Estate in Sha Tin with the husband’s sister, who has shown no symptoms but was tested and has been sent to a quarantine centre.

The wife had visited a private doctor in the estate three times and was treated for an upper respiratory tract infection as she did not have any travel history, Chuang said.

She began feeling chest pains and was sent to Prince of Wales hospital in Shatin on Saturday, where she remains in critical condition.

The doctor and his staff will be asked for throat samples.

Chuang reminded doctors in private clinics not to let their guard down with patients with respiratory symptoms, saying they should arrange for them to be tested for Covid-19.

She also said the government would take into consideration the risk of a sudden outbreak in deciding whether to continue social-distancing measures, which are set to expire on June 4. These include limiting to eight the number of people who can gather in public.

Phl Covid-19 tally breaches 17k mark as 590 more cases reported

Posted on 31 May 2020 No comments
By The SUN

OFWs under quarantine in a government facility in Metro Manila (GMA News photo)

The Philippines has reported 590 more Covid-19 cases on May 30, just two days before the lockdown in Metro Manila and other key places is set to be relaxed.

The total tally now stands at 17,224.

The death toll rose to 950 after eight new fatalities were reported, while the total recoveries rose to 3,808 with 88 new ones.
The day’s count was divided into 252 “fresh” cases, meaning those based on test results released to patients within three days, and 338 “late” cases, where the reporting was made after the cut-off time.

The daily figure, which was released without explanation more than four hours late, was first split into the two categories after a record spike of 539 cases was recorded on Thursday, and a much higher figure of 1,046 on Friday.

Pindutin para sa detalye

Critics, including Senator Francis Escudero, have called out the Department of Health on the maneuver, accusing it of fudging the figures to make it look like the rate of infection has slowed down when it is fact accelerating.
Health USec Ma Rosario Vergeire says the new categories are meant to ease concerns over the spike in cases

There are 11,972 active cases, or about 64% of the total. Of these, 714 or 6 percent are asymptomatic, 11,184 or 93.4 percent are mild, 56 or 0.5 percent are severe, and 18 or 0.2 percent are in critical condition.
The spike in the reported cases comes just days before several key areas are set to shift to a more relaxed general community quarantine. These include Metro Manila, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon and Calabarzon, the provinces of Albay and Pangasinan; as well as Davao City.

This means, most businesses will be allowed to open and public transportation will resume in a limited form.

Critically ill local woman could be one of 4 new Covid-19 cases

Posted on No comments
By The SUN

The woman is in hospital in critical condition after testing positive for Covid-19

A 34-year-old woman with no recent travel history is reported to be in intensive care in Prince of Wales Hospital in Shatin tonight, after initially testing positive for the coronavirus disease.

The woman, said to be on a ventilator, needs to test positive twice before being confirmed as having Covid-19.

If she is found infected, she would bring Hong Kong’s total tally to 1,083 after three new imported cases were reported earlier Saturday. It would also end the city’s 16-day run of no local transmission.
The three confirmed cases, including a one-year-old boy, all traveled aboard a Qatar Airways flight QR 818 on Thursday from Pakistan, with a stopover in Doha.

A fifth, or 16, of the 83 passengers on the flight have already been infected. But local health officials say they don’t believe the infected people caught the virus on the plane, but in Pakistan.

Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan of the Centre for Health Protection’s communicable disease branch, said: “We believe they were infected in [Pakistan], because they had been tested immediately upon arrival. Normally, if they were infected on the flight, that incubation period [for a positive result] would be way too short,” she said.
But she added, “It is by far the only flight with so many infected cases to my knowledge.”

Four flight attendants have been sent to a quarantine centre after they were identified as close contacts of the infected passengers, while eight others tested negative.

A total of 1,100 residents have recently returned from the South Asian country, and 36 have tested positive. Pakistan has a high infection rate per capita, but has yet to conduct a mass testing among its population.

Chuang says the 16 infected passengers were already sick when they boarded the QR flight

Chuang said the new patients included a 38-year-old man and his eight-year-old son whose initial test results were uncertain, but were subsequently found to be infected.

Health officials took some time getting a saliva sample from the one-year-old baby, but tests from his throat swab later showed he also had the disease. His 24-year-old mother tested positive on Friday.

The last local infection in the city was recorded on May 14, when a 62-year-old man who lives in Tsuen Wan tested positive for the virus. A day earlier, his 66-year-old wife and five-year-old granddaughter were also found infected.

After testing more than 1,000 people living in their housing blocks, no more positive results were recorded. The source of their infection remains unknown.

Meanwhile, transit passengers would be allowed into Hong Kong International Airport from Monday, after a ban of more than two months.

Chuang urged all passengers to maintain personal hygiene and wear masks to prevent the spread of the virus.

Brains behind FDW employment scam jailed 43 months

Posted on 30 May 2020 No comments
By The SUN

The syndicate secured FDH employment for Filipinos and Indonesians using fake documents

The director of an employment agency was sentenced to 43 months imprisonment in the District Court on Friday, May 29, for fake jobs for Filipino and Indonesian domestic workers in Hong Kong.

The 43-year-old resident who was not named in a government press release, was convicted of three counts of conspiracy to defraud and five counts of using false instruments.

The 17 foreign domestic helpers involved in the case were earlier sentenced to up to eight months’ jail after being convicted in Shatin magistrates court on charges of conspiracy to defraud, making false representation to an immigration officer and breach of condition of stay.

Pindutin para sa detalye!

The statement said the fraud was discovered during an investigation of a case in which FDHs were suspected of working in Hong Kong illegally.

Immigration investigators identified the agency as the one that was arranging for the Filipino and Indonesian nationals to apply for employment visas in Hong Kong by using falsified employment contracts.

The crackdown was part of an Immigration operation codenamed Operation Shadowcatcher which began in March 2018. More than 30 people, including the mastermind, other Hong Kong residents and Filipino and Indonesian nationals on FDH visas were arrested in the operation.
In addition, a huge cache of fake documents were used, including forged bank statements, telecommunications service and water bills.

The investigation is continuing.

On Jul 26 last year, a Filipina owner of an employment agency was jailed for two years for the same offense of arranging fake FDH visas.

Mila Osias, owner of the defunct D’Sun Employment Agency in Hung Hom, was convicted at the District Court on charges of forgery and conspiracy to defraud.

Arrested along with her were four other Hong Kong residents and nine Filipinos who had applied for FDH visas using falsified residential and financial proofs.

Investigators discovered Osias used unlawfully obtained Hong Kong ID card copies and false salary and residential proof, such as forged bank statements, electricity and gas bills, as well as telecoms service and pay-TV service bills to apply for FDH working visas.

Today’s press statement warned that those convicted of making, possessing or using false instruments are liable to imprisonment of up to 14 years. The same sentence applies to those found guilty of conspiracy to defraud.

Those who make false representation to an immigration officer could be jailed for up to 14 years, and fined up to $150,000.

FDHs who do illegal work would also be prosecuted and if convicted, sentenced to imprisonment of  up to years, and fined a maximum of $50,000.

Aiders and abettors are also liable to prosecution.

The press statement warned that those convicted of making, possessing or using false instruments are liable to imprisonment of up to 14 years. The same sentence applies to those found guilty of conspiracy to defraud.

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