KUWTT: DA probes pork ‘scam’ Mar 18, 2021

Good day. Here are the stories for The Manila Times for Thursday, March 18, 2021.

READ: DA probes pork ‘scam’

THE Department of Agriculture (DA) will investigate allegations of some lawmakers that a syndicate would rake in as much as P6 billion in kickbacks from the allocation of meat import certificates under the in-quota Minimum Access Volume (MAV) scheme. Agriculture Secretary William Dar said a special committee headed by the department’s legal service chief would conduct the investigation. On Monday, Sen. Panfilo Lacson alleged that a syndicate in the DA that imposes “tongpats” or padded costs on pork imports could get as much as P6 billion or an extra P5 to P7 per kilo of imported pork.

READ: Govt bans entry on foreigners

FOREIGN visitors and Filipinos who are not overseas workers will not be allowed to enter the country beginning March 20 as the nation recalibrates its quarantine protocols following a surge in coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases and the detection of new variants. Foreign visitors and visiting overseas Filipinos who are not classified as overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) will be barred, a memorandum signed by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, as chairman of the National Task Force Against Covid-19 (NTF), said. The travel restriction will take effect until April 19. Inbound international passengers will also be limited to only 1,500 per day.

READ: PH to get 1M Covaxin doses

AT least 1 million doses of Covaxin, the Covid-19 vaccine made by India’s Bharat Biotech, will arrive in the country starting April, Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Jose Maria “Joey” Concepcion 3rd said on Wednesday. Concepcion said Covavax will boost the country’s vaccination program and is an addition to the doses from AstraZeneca, Moderna and Novavax.

READ: Vaccinated health worker dies

A Filipino health care worker who had been inoculated against the Covid-19 died due to complications, but authorities were quick to emphasize that the vaccine did not cause the death. In a statement, the Department of Health and the Food and Drug Administration said the unidentified health care worker died due to complications from the disease.

READ: PH, India discuss joint vaccine production

VACCINE czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said on Wednesday the Philippines was negotiating with the Serum Institute of India Private Ltd. (SII) to establish a “long-term cooperation” for the country’s plan to manufacture its own Covid-19 vaccines. Galvez bared that one of the Duterte administration’s goals would be for the Philippines to develop its own vaccines, a capability the country had in 1938.

READ: Pandemic could lead to more massive layoffs

OVER 100,000 workers might lose their jobs if 15 “strategically important companies” (SICs) fold up because of the pandemic, the Land Bank of the Philippines (LandBank) warned on Wednesday. It said these 15 companies would incur losses of over P5 trillion if the government would not help them under the proposed Government Financial Institutions Unified Initiatives to Distressed Enterprises for Economic Recovery (Guide) Act. Guian Angelo Dumalagan, LandBank assistant vice president and chief market economist, during a Senate hearing, said that the 15 SICs were all publicly listed.

REGIONS: PDP-Laban Olongapo launches ‘Go-Duterte’

The PDP-Laban Chapter in Olongapo City on Tuesday formally launched the “Go DU30 Movement” which aims to urge Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go to run for president along with President Rodrigo Duterte as vice president in the 2022 national elections. The party’s local president, Michael Macapagal, believes the continuing programs of the current administration is “foremost” and needs the Duterte leadership if they want to win the war against poverty in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

READ: Senate placed on full lockdown

WITH 26 employees afflicted with Covid-19, the entire Senate building has been placed on lockdown until March 20. Senate President Vicente Sotto 3rd ordered the lockdown upon the recommendation of the Senate dental and medical department. Sotto said there would be no session on March 29 and March 30. Session will resume on March 31. Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri informed Sotto that the House of Representatives was “also going on lockdown.”

BUSINESS: Budget gap shrinks to P14B in Jan

In business, the national government’s fiscal deficit narrowed to P14.1 billion in the first month of 2021 as state spending rose and revenue collections fell, according to the Bureau of the Treasury (BTr). Treasury data showed on Wednesday that the shortfall was smaller than the P302.59-billion deficit in December and a turnaround of the P23-billion surplus in January 2020.

SPORTS: PBA awaits LGU approval for Season 46 opening

Topping sports, the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) is now waiting for the approval of the local government unit (LGU) of Antipolo City to host the upcoming PBA Philippine Cup, which will blast off on April 18, 2021. Asia’s first pro league has pushed back the opening to one week as it changes venue in Antipolo City with the Ynares Center as a prospective venue for a semi-bubble tourney setup. PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial said they have already reached out to officials of Antipolo City.

READ: Opinion and editorial

Yen Makabenta, Ramon Tulfo and Arch. Felino Palafox Jr. are today’s front page columnists. Makabenta talks about a “Filipino-centric” view on the 500th anniversary of the circumnavigation of the world, Tulfo wants to give Philippine National Police chief Debold Sinas a break amid his Covid-19 positive result, while Arch. Palafox discusses Spanish colonial architecture.

Today’s editorial calls on the Department of Budget and Management to explain on why nurses are being “demoted” in terms of their salary grade. Read the full version on the paper’s Opinion Section or listen to the Voice of The Times.

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With Dafort Villaseran, this is Aric John Sy Cua reporting. May you have a safe Thursday ahead.