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DOLE-RO VIII awards P490K livelihood assistance to Abuyog farmers

Teachers reject Congress bid to pass 'terror bill'

Selling substandard products like selling illegal drugs - DTI chief

ACT calls for release of nationwide reading inventory report

190 new Eastern Visayas candidate soldiers take oath to serve the country

DPWH-8 conducts Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Premiere pro training

Farmers see higher sales on handicrafts in 2020

Inflation rate in Eastern Visayas rebounds by 0.6% in November 2019





Liloan Farmers Agriculture Cooperative
The Liloan Farmers Agriculture Cooperative in coordination with the local government unit holds mobile market to sell their products all over the town. (Photo by Febe Marie Bersabal)

Agrarian reform beneficiary organizations generate P22.9M in sales during quarantine

May 5, 2020

TACLOBAN CITY – Despite the implementation of community quarantine throughout the country for several weeks now, 104 agrarian reform beneficiaries organizations (ARBOs) in Eastern Visayas generated a combined gross sales of P22,928,460.00.

This period covers from the last week of March, where most of the local government units started enforcing their respective community quarantines, up to the third week of April this year.

Regional Director Stephen Leonidas of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) was impressed with the determination of these farmers to survive amid this global crisis caused by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Members of the said DAR-assisted farmer organizations continue with their farm activities and marketing of their harvests despite the current situation.

As assistance to them during this hard and trying times, Leonidas disclosed that DAR has provided 119 ARBOs throughout the region with quarantine accreditation pass to have access in checkpoints, which was authorized by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF-EID), for the continuous supply of agricultural products.

Leonidas said, these farmers did not only earn income during the quarantine period but contributed to the sustainability of food supply in the region.

Based on the DAR monitoring report, of the 104 ARBOs who continued with their marketing activities to supply food, 33 are in the province of Leyte; 21 in Eastern Samar; 20 in Samar; 15 in Northern Samar; eight in Southern Leyte; and seven in Biliran.

Among these ARBOs are the MAALSADA FISCO based in Alangalang town, and the Paglaum Farmers Association based in this city.

The MAALSADA FISCO continued to supply over 6,000 kilos of milled rice to the Eastern Visayas Medical Center (EVRMC); while the Paglaum Farmers Association delivered some 3,000 kilos of assorted vegetables to the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP).

Both ARBOs are recipients of marketing tie-up arrangements facilitated by DAR under the Enhanced Partnership Against Hunger and Poverty (EPAHP) program.

In Samar, the local government unit (LGU) of Calbiga purchases all the harvests of the Calbiga Vegetable Growers Association, Panayuran Upland Farmers Association, Brgy. Bulao Farmers Association, Canbagtic Farmers Association, and the Borong Active Farmers Association to give variation to the canned goods commonly given during distribution of relief assistance for the town’s residents.

In Southern Leyte, the Liloan Farmers Agriculture Cooperative conducts a mobile market around the municipality of Liloan in coordination with the LGU to sell their products composed of milled-rice and various types of vegetables harvested under the Linking Smallholder Farmers to the Market with Microfinance (LinkSFarMM) program. This is to lessen the movement of people and avoid mass gathering in the market.

Meanwhile, in the province of Biliran, the BSF Farm Workers and Beneficiaries Agrarian Reform Cooperative based in Biliran town and the Anislagan Ceramic Agrarian Reform Cooperative based in the municipality of Naval continue to supply fresh eggs, from the egg layering livelihood they availed under the Convergence of Livelihood Assistance for ARBs Project (CLAAP), to their clients.

In his Facebook comment, Agrarian Reform Secretary John Castriciones described the farmers as “silent frontliners” against COVID-19.





DTI assists PPE producer UNISOL to reinvent its business


May 5, 2020

MAKATI CITY – As demand dries up and non-essential establishments temporarily close amidst the COVID pandemic, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), through its financing arm the Small Business Corporation (SB Corp.), opens a loan facility for micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) that decide to repurpose their production lines to cope up.

One business that availed of this DTI facility is Uniform Solutions (UNISOL), a start-up company for on demand uniforms based in Cebu.

With an initial loan of P3.0 million approved under DTI's Small and Medium Enterprise - Personal Protective Equipment (SME-PPE) loan facility, UNISOL was able to retrofit its production operations to make washable face masks and reusable protective suits.

CEO Jonas Quilantang narrated how it took him five years to set-up operations and get ready for mass production, adopt technological innovations to improve existing products; have the machines, suppliers as well as the market ready.

"We wanted to make sure we can deliver the bulk orders expected of us and sustain our niche market," Quilantang explained.

UNISOL was about ready to hold a grand company launch in early 2020 when a dire health situation developed in China.

Quilantang closely followed the news on the outbreak, had a hunch that the situation could worsen and knew a surge in demand for facemasks would follow.

He immediately made a strategic decision that changed the direction of his company.

"Before Luzon implemented its enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), I got the commitment from one of our suppliers for them to provide the needed fabric for the washable facemasks," he said.

"We started making washable facemasks mid-March and reusable protective suits in early April this year," Quilantang added.

Currently, UNISOL manufactures around 50,000 pieces of washable facemasks per day and 60,000 pieces of reusable protective suits a month.

UNISOL has reached the 1 million mark for facemasks as of April 29 this year.

After a month of production, Quilantang said that the company now has a stable supply of the products and is looking to widen its market by forging partnerships.

UNISOL is one good example of a company that effectively turned a negative situation into a good business opportunity, DTI-Regional Operations Group Assistant Secretary Asteria Caberte said.

Despite the challenges, the company found a way to repurpose its production operation which was originally designed to manufacture T-shirts, polo shirts and jackets to produce personal protective equipment (PPE), and keep its workers employed, ASec. Caberte explained.

Like UNISOL, SMEs can also avail of the DTI loan facility by getting in touch with any of the DTI-Central Visayas provincial offices to signify their interest and to get an endorsement to the SB Corporation.

Micro enterprises with an asset size of not more than P3-million can borrow P10,000 to P200,000 while small enterprises with an asset size of not more than P10 million can borrow a higher loan amount but not exceeding P500,000, she said.





DAR-assisted farmers
Some local buyers buy fresh eggs right at the farm of members of BSF Farm Workers and Beneficiaries Agrarian Reform Cooperative in Biliran, Biliran who are into egg-layering business. (Photo courtesy of Maryvic Cempron)

DAR-assisted farmer organizations continue to earn amidst quarantine

May 2, 2020

NAVAL, Biliran – A famous Filipino saying, “Kapag may itinanim, may aanihin,” may perfectly apply to some members of agrarian reform beneficiaries organizations (ARBOs) who nurtured the various assistance extended to them by the government during the sunny days.

Regional Director Stephen Leonidas of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) was elated to know that despite the implementation of the community quarantine as a precautionary measure to control the spread of the dreaded coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), several members of the seven DAR-assisted farmer organizations in this province continue to earn income from the various livelihood assistance extended to them in the past by DAR and other government agencies.

Moreover, they contribute to food sustainability during this hard and trying times.

In a report submitted to him, disclosed that 31 members of the Anislagan Ceramic Agrarian Reform Cooperative (ACARCO) from this capital town, as well as 31 members of the BSF Farm Worker’s and Beneficiaries Agrarian Reform Cooperative from the adjacent Biliran town, continue to supply fresh eggs in their respective communities.

These 62 ARBO members are into egg-layering business which they started when they became recipients of the Convergence of Livelihood Assistance for ARBs Project (CLAAP) late last year. CLAAP is a joint project of DAR and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) which provides livelihood assistance to both ARB members of ARBOs and 4Ps beneficiaries.

In Kawayan town, 44 members of the Ungale Fish Vendors Association continue to earn income from dried fish processing. These 44 ARBO members were able to avail of financial assistance from the Land Bank of the Philippines thru the Agrarian Production Credit Program (APCP) in 2018, which they used as additional capital in sustaining their business.

In the municipality of Cabucgayan, the Balaquid Agrarian Reform Cooperative which is into rice production and trading, continues to supply milled-rice, contributing to the province’s sufficient supply of staple food. This cooperative is a recipient of the foreign-assisted Agrarian Reform Infrastructure Support Project (ARISP).

In Caibiran town, the Nagkakaisang Magsasaka ng Caibiran (NaMaCa) Multi-Purpose Cooperative, sell pork from the swine production of the said ARBO.

Meanwhile, 34 ARB members of the Almeria Seafarers Multi-Purpose Cooperative, and nine ARB members of the Villa Rice Farmers Producers Association, both from Almeria town, continue supplying fruits, vegetables and poultry products to local buyers. The two farmer organizations are recipients of Linking Smallholder Farmers to the Markets with Microfinance (LinkSFarMM) program.

From the last week of March to mid-April this year, the above-mentioned ARBs/ARBOs earned a combined gross sale of P83,987.

According to Leonidas, some activities of these farmers can be sustained even amid the current situation for these are done only in their respective homes, in their front or backyards.

Further, as assistance for these farmers to have access in checkpoints while community quarantine is enforced, Leonidas disclosed that DAR had provided them with the agency-issued quarantine accreditation pass, which was authorized by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF-EID), for the continuous supply of farm products in town markets, food lanes, and other designated trading centers.





Fishery production in Eastern Visayas posts 14.69% increase in the fourth quarter of 2019

By PSA-8
May 2, 2020

TACLOBAN CITY – Eastern Visayas fishery production increased substantially by 14.69 percent in the fourth quarter of 2019. Its production went up to 34,936 metric tons (MT), from 30,461 MT in the same quarter in 2018.

Eastern Visayas ranked eleventh among regions with high fishery production in the country in the fourth quarter of 2019. The region contributed 2.73 percent only to the country’s total fishery production.

Municipal fishery production (21,834 MT) contributed almost two-thirds or 62.50 percent of the region’s total fishery production. Aquaculture shared 27.78 percent (9,705 MT), while Commercial fishery accounted for 9.72 percent (3,397 MT).

Among provinces, Leyte recorded the highest volume of fishery production at 12,993 MT in the fourth quarter of 2019. It supplied 37.19 percent of the total fishery production in the region. Samar ranked second at 8,037 MT which accounted for 23.01 percent of the region’s total fish production. Southern Leyte, meanwhile, had the lowest volume of production at 1,459 MT. It provided 4.18 percent only of the total fishery production.

Commercial fishery production posted the highest increase of 19.44 percent from among the subsectors of the fishery sector. Its production increased to 3,397 MT in the fourth quarter of 2019 from 2,844 MT in the same quarter of 2018. Among provinces, Samar registered the highest volume of production at 1,540 MT. It comprised 45.34 percent of the total commercial fishery production in Eastern Visayas. Southern Leyte, meanwhile, registered the lowest volume of production in the fourth quarter of 2019 at 91 MT. It shared 2.68 percent only of the total commercial fishery production in the region.

Samar Island (Samar, Eastern Samar and Northern Samar) topped the municipal fishery sector in Eastern Visayas in the fourth quarter of 2019. It posted a 67.31 percent combined share to the total municipal fishery (both marine and inland fishing) production of the region in the said quarter. Biliran, meanwhile, registered the lowest contribution of 1,321 MT or 6.05 percent share to the regional total.

The region’s total volume of municipal fishery production (both marine and inland fishing) registered an increase of 13.84 percent. It rose to 21,834 MT in the fourth quarter of 2019from 19,179 MT in the same quarter of 2018. This growth was attributed to the hundredfold increase (112.54 percent) in Leyte Province’s production in the fourth quarter of 2019. This went up to 4,476 MT from 2,106 MT production in the same quarter of 2018. Biliran, Eastern Samar and Southern Leyte also posted increases at 43.49 percent, 28.54 percent and 7.22 percent, respectively. Whereas, Northern Samar went down by 14.60 percent, while Samar declined by 7.66 percent.

Volume of aquaculture production recorded a hefty increase of 15.02 percent. It rose to 9,705 MT in the fourth quarter of 2019from 8,437 MTin the same quarter of 2018. The expansion in aquaculture production in Southern Leyte (33.98 percent), Samar (30.55 percent) and Leyte (14.22 percent) resulted to the substantial increase in the regional production. Only Eastern Samar and Northern Samar recorded declines at 16.87 percent and 6.23 percent, respectively.

Among provinces, Leyte dominated in aquaculture production. It produced 8,331MT in the fourth quarter of 2019, comprising 85.84 percent of the total aquaculture production in the region. Samar ranked second at 1,016 MT, accounting for 10.47 percent share to the region’s total aquaculture production. Biliran, meanwhile, registered the lowest contribution with 0.23 percent share or 22 MT during the fourth quarter of 2019.





Citizen’s involvement against CNT’s planned ambush saved lives

improvised explosive device (IED)

May 2, 2020

CAMP LUKBAN, Catbalogan City – Combined troops of 46th Infantry (Peacemakers) Battalion, Philippine Army and Explosive Ordnance Division (EOD) of PNP Pinabacdao, aided by the vigilant populace of Pinabacdao, Samar, outrightly responded on the attempt of the CPP-NPA Terrorists (CNTs) improvised explosive device (IED) attack. The plan was reported by a concerned citizen to the authorities that led to the retrieval of four IEDs on April 30, 2020 at about 1:00 a.m.

According to the informant, the IEDs (PVC-type and sealed with electrical tape) were placed along Maharlika National Highway at the boundary of barangays Pahug and Madalunot, all in Pinabacdao, Samar.

The said IEDs were brought to 46IB Headquarters for proper documentation and disposition.

It can be recalled that the same army unit retrieved four IEDs in the neighboring barangay of Hubasan, Municipality of Calbiga, Samar last April 6, 2020.

In October 29 last year, at around 12:30 a.m., two civilian representatives of Toyota company survived in a CTG’s IED ambush when their driven white Toyota Hi-Lux was mistaken by the CTG as police patrol car as they were passing along Maharlika Highway at the boundary of barangays Lale and Pahug of Pinabacdao Samar.

Moreover, it can be recalled that on December 19, 2015, government troops and two DSWD female staff onboard two trucks coming from humanitarian assistance in Northern Samar during the onslaught of typhoon “Nona” (Melor) were ambushed by the CPP-NPA in the same boundary of barangays Pahug and Madalunot, Pinabacdao, Samar.

The 801st Brigade Commander, Colonel Camilo Z. Ligayo commended the feat of the security forces and the help provided by the informant. He also underscored, “Our security forces are always ready to run after the rebels who take advantage of the vulnerability of the community in this challenging time brought by COVID-19 pandemic in the region.”

“The continuous support of the people prevented the IEDs to inflict harm and averted the loss of lives unlike what happened last December 13, 2019 in Borongan, Eastern Samar wherein one PNP personnel and three innocent civilians were killed and 14 were wounded including 2 minors and an infant caused by CPP-NPA”, Ligayo added.





Instead of addressing mass poverty and hunger on Labor Day, Duterte unleashes mass arrests and fascism

May 1, 2020

QUEZON CITY – Human rights group Karapatan assailed the “brutality and sheer lack of compassion” of the Duterte administration as it enforced a “policy of mass arrests and fascism instead of addressing mass hunger and the grossly inadequate government response on International Workers’ Day.”

Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said at least 76 individuals – a daughter of a slain aid worker, relief workers, a priest, a lawyer, human rights workers and women’s rights advocates, student leaders among them – were illegally arrested today all over the country. “These arrests unveil in full the anti-worker and anti-poor character of this regime that serves not the people but only its militarist and anti-people interests and agenda,” she stated.

“Workers and the poor are bearing the brunt of the government’s militarized lockdown due to the loss of their livelihoods and lack of adequate socioeconomic aid. Instead of heeding the urgent demands of the marginalized, the Duterte government and its minions in the military and the police are instead exploiting quarantine measures to harass, vilify, and rabidly arrest – even kill – activists, especially those conducting relief operations in communities hard-hit by the crisis,” Palabay continued.

Before noon, about 42 activists were arrested in Jaro, Iloilo City hours after negotiating with policemen to allow them to light candles hold an indignation caravan to condemn and demand justice for the murder of Bayan Muna – Iloilo City Coordinator Jose Reynaldo “Jory” Porquia, who was harassed by the police for conducting relief operations in urban poor communities. Among the 42 arrested include Jory Porquia’s daughter, Krisma Niña, Iglesia Filipina Independiente priest Marco Sulayao, human rights lawyer Angelo Karlo Guillen, human rights workers Jose Ely Garachico and Alma Sumague.

Meanwhile, police also arrested 10 women’s rights advocates, teachers, and relief volunteers from Cure COVID and Bayanihang Marikenyo’t Marikenya who were organizing their community kitchen in Olandes, Brgy. Industrial Valley Complex in Marikina City. Despite the orders of Marikina City Mayor Marcelino Teodoro to release the relief volunteers, the police led by PNP-NCR Chief Debold Sinas are refusing to release them. Around 14 residents of Brgy. Central, Quezon City and 4 volunteers from youth relief initiative Tulong Kabataan were also arrested after organizing a community kitchen for poor residents in the area. Two transport workers were also arrested in Brgy. San Isidro, Rodriguez, Rizal for merely holding placards. Four urban poor residents of Brgy. Paso de Blas, Valenzuela City were brought to the police station; the police said photos of their protests were seen on Facebook.

Meanwhile, teachers from the ACT for People’s Health experienced harassment this morning, just as they were scheduled to distribute food packs and face masks to workers in establishments along Visayas Avenue in Quezon City. Yesterday afternoon, April 30, 16 workers from Coca-Cola in Sta. Rosa, Laguna were also taken by elements of the Police Regional Office - 4A and the Philippine Army's 202nd Brigade; today, they were paraded to the media as “rebel surrenderees.”

The Karapatan official averred that “contrary to the president’s faux pledge to ‘reaffirm the government’s commitment to uphold the dignity of labor,’ these mass arrests, fake surrenders, and harassment of relief volunteers on Labor Day show the lengths this regime is willing to go to harass and threaten activists. It simply wants the poor to rot away in hunger; they cannot claim to uphold the dignity of labor when this fascist regime has been so eager to please the interests of big businesses and its bloodthirsty militarist lapdogs at the expense of people’s rights and welfare.”

“Instead of responding to the socioeconomic needs of the people, these mass arrests will only worsen the plight of the poor. Yung tumutulong, ikinukulong. Yung mga opisyal na lumalabag sa batas, binibigyan ng special treatment. In the face of State violence and repression and Duterte’s blatantly anti-poor and anti-worker regime, these arrests should make everyone realize that it is but just and it is but right to speak out and act for our people’s rights and wellbeing,” she ended.





Survey reveals 94% of private school teachers, staff receive no government aid

By ACT Private Schools
April 30, 2020

QUEZON CITY – As COVID-19 is taking a heavy toll on public health, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Private Schools strongly denounces government’s neglect to equally pay attention to the plight of academic and non-academic personnel of private basic and tertiary education institutions. In an online survey conducted by ACT Private Schools, 4,005 or 94% of the 4,268 respondents across 65 cities and provinces in the country received no financial assistance to sustain living amid prolonged lockdown.

“With the private school teachers and staff being among the most vulnerable educational sectors, the government should also pay utmost precedence to the health and welfare of privately employed educational workers nationwide, especially now that their employment is at stake more than ever because of the economic impact brought by COVID-19,” said Dr. Jonathan Geronimo, Secretary-General of ACT Private Schools.

ACT Private Schools conducted mass online survey through its COVID-19 Hotline Assistance for Teachers in Private Schools (CHAT) Project to gather concerns and correctly assess the situation of the sector. Based on the data, 56.6% of the respondents said that their employers applied for the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) financial aid but only 6% of these respondents were granted the said aid. On the other hand, many of the respondents noted that they were either deemed unfit to receive such assistance based on DOLE’s qualifications, were rejected due to the exhaustion of funds for the COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program, or their employers did not apply for the aid.

Furthermore, 77.9% of the respondents do not already receive any monthly compensation from their schools, while the remaining percentage are in doubt if they will be compensated during vacation until the next academic year starts anew. Most of the reasons that drove to these statistics include the perpetuation of ‘No Work, No Pay’ scheme, lack of adequate monetary funding to sustain school operations, clearance requirements, expiration of contracts during the period of lockdown, among others. More so, 51.3% of them exposed that they did not receive financial support from their employers.

ACT Private School petitions the Duterte administration to heed the demands of all academic and non-academic personnel from private basic and tertiary education institutions, through an online signature campaign expressing the sectors’ collective 8-point demand.

The initiative primarily appeals for economic and social safety net to ensure the health, welfare, and the protection of rights of all employees in different private schools, colleges, and universities. The petition presses concerning agencies such as DOLE, Commission on Higher Education (CHEd), and Department of Education (DepEd) to create and impose relevant policies and programs, not only to subsidize the medical and other basic necessities but also to secure the promotion and employment status of all probationary and tenured private school employees as the government positions its greater effort to subside the swelling number of transmission cases of COVID-19.

“The drafted 8-point socio-economic demands were derived through consultations with private school teachers and personnel, as it acknowledges the crucial role of the masses to accurately depict the actual reality and provide sensible recommendations to further better the existing programs and systems of the government. We stress that this health crisis may be termed novel but the solution it requires is never different – collectivism in the midst of the struggle.” Geronimo ended.





Maiden shipment of Philippine organic coconut milk arrives in Russia

Coco Daily organic coconut milk

April 28, 2020

MOSCOW, Russia – Russian importer PanAsia Impex Ltd. announced that the maiden shipment of Philippine brand Coco Daily organic coconut milk arrived at the port of Saint Petersburg first week of April. The 1-liter packages of Coco Daily that arrived in the 40-foot shipping container will be available to mainstream Russian consumers this spring.

PanAsia Impex Ltd., Russian importer and distributor of Asian food products, sourced the Philippine branded coconut milk from Century Pacific Agri Ventures, Inc. (CPAVI). Coco Daily is the first product imported from the Philippines by PanAsia Impex Ltd.

Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez said of this welcome development, “The first shipment of Philippine coconut milk to Russia is good news, especially in light of the current situation. Amidst the coronavirus threat, our businesses continue to grow and expand. We are very proud of our Philippine exporters and producers who pursue opening new markets abroad.”

The Trade Secretary congratulated both PanAsia Impex Ltd. and CPAVI. "The Philippines is looking forward to more cooperation between Philippine and Russian companies that will bring more Philippine high-quality, world-class food products to Russia and make it available to the Russian consumers,” he added.

Philippine Ambassador to the Russian Federation, Ambassador Carlos D. Sorreta also welcomed this positive development. He added that “the food sector is one of the segments where we can see increasing cooperation between the Philippines and Russian companies. Moving forward, we hope that there will be more such partnerships so that more Philippine products will be made available in the Russian market as both the Philippines and Russia can contribute to one another's food security.”

“Coco Daily coconut milk has the advantage of being organic as it competes with other similar products in the Russian market,” said Mr. Vyacheslav Kapitonov, one of the founders of PanAsia ImpEx Ltd. He also thanked the DTI’s Philippine Trade & Investment Center in Moscow (PTIC-Moscow) for their continuous assistance and business-to-business (B2B) introductions as PanAsia Impex sources more food products from the Philippines.

Commercial Counsellor Kristine Umali of PTIC-Moscow also congratulated PanAsia Impex and CPAVI on the maiden shipment. “We are pleased that our assistance and B2B introductions between PanAsia Impex and Philippine exporters have borne fruit. We are excited to have our Philippine coconut milk in the mainstream market and for Russian consumers to be able to try our high-quality Philippine food products. We hope to bring more world-class Philippine products to Russia, and we are here to assist in the B2B introductions for potential partnerships between Philippine and Russian companies,” she shared.

Pan-Asia Impex Ltd.’s partnership with the Philippines stemmed from a meeting with PTIC-Moscow last year, where they indicated their interest to source coconut milk and other coconut products from the Philippines. PTIC-Moscow then facilitated B2B introductions followed by meetings with Philippine exporters at the sidelines of the Philippines-Russia Joint Commission on Trade & Economic Cooperation (JCTEC) in August 2019 and the World Food Moscow in September 2019, both held in Moscow, Russia.

PanAsia Impex formalized its strong interest to pursue cooperation with Philippine companies by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with CPAVI at the Philippines-Russia Business Forum held on 04 October 2019 in Moscow during the Philippine Presidential Visit to Russia. PanAsia Impex has since entered into negotiations with CPAVI and other Philippine food product producers and exporters to source Philippine food products for the mainstream Russian consumer market.





1 CNT killed in pursuit operation in Northern Samar

April 27, 2020

CAMP LUKBAN, Catbalogan City, Samar – Pursuing troops from 20th Infantry (We Lead) Battalion, Philippine Army clashed anew against more or less ten (10) fleeing CPP-NPA Terrorists (CNTs) at the outskirts of Brgy. P. Rebadulla, Catubig, Northern Samar on April 27, 2020 at 12:35 in the afternoon.

killed CNTA five-minute firefight transpired that resulted to the killing of one (1) CNT and seizure of one (1) sub-machine gun, one (1) magazine and four (4) 9mm ammunition during the said pursuit operation. There is no reported casualty on the side of the government.

The said CNTs are believed to be the same group of rebels encountered by the same 20IB troops that transpired last April 23, 2020 of same barangay. In this encounter, an NPA camp was overran while six (6) firearms were seized.

Lieutenant Colonel Juan A. Gullem, Commanding Officer of 20IB said that their unit is committed to end terrorism in their area of operations.

“I commend our troops for the display of gallantry in pursuing the enemies despite the exhaustion from the series of security and pursuit operations. The residents and the Army are now in the same wavelength to end the agitation and wantonness of the terrorists through absolute obliteration of their presence in Northern Samar,” Gullem stated further.

Colonel Lowell R. Tan, Commander of the 803rd Infantry Brigade stressed that, “This unfortunate incident could have been avoided if the rebels heeded the call of the government to return to mainstream society and avail of the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP).”

"Our security forces will be relentless in their internal security operations to finally put an end to the crimes and atrocities of the terrorists, and to give peace and much-yearned development in Northern Samar,” Tan concluded.





Anti-pregnancy pills in CNT lair in Northern Samar, glimpse of grim situation of abused women by NPA

Anti-pregnancy pills for NPA women

April 26, 2020

CAMP LUKBAN, Catbalogan City – The recovery of anti-pregnancy pills by troops in a Communist NPA Terrorists' (CNT) lair in Barangay P. Rebadulla, Catubig, Northern Samar last April 23, 2020 offers glimpse of grim reality of the dire situation of women under the physical control of the NPA.

This is the prevailing conclusion by authorities as information are coming in and being validated by other data and by former rebels from other areas.

It may be recalled that the 20th Infantry Battalion under 8th Infantry Division responded to information of residents and overran a Communist Terrorist Group’s (CTG) lair and seized high powered firearms and boxes of anti-pregnancy pills.

Major General Pio Q. Diñoso III, Commander of 8th Infantry Division said, "The anti-pregnancy pills are proof of the situation of women under the unbearable control of the NPA terrorists. Women fighters could have been compelled to take anti-pregnancy pills and they might have been forced to become sex objects of some NPA leaders".

Three weeks ago in Balangiga, Eastern Samar, NPA terrorists took some relief goods belonging to people in Sitio Bangon, Brgy Guinmaayohan and people noticed some pregnant women NPA members.

In a bid to help these pregnant NPA members, Mayor Randy Graza of Balangiga issued an appeal for the NPA to coordinate with government instrumentalities so that they may be given appropriate health care.

Several former rebels revealed that this situation is not only prevalent in Samar but in every area where the NPAs operate. Women have been subject of sexual exploitation by NPA leaders and other members. Former rebels said that some women end up as party wife of other NPAs while others end up only as sex objects of some leaders or senior members. Most often, pregnant NPAs are being abandoned by their leaders and companions in dire situations.

In October 9, 2019, alias Jane, a pregnant NPA and 12 others surrendered to government forces in Bulacan. She refused to reveal the circumstances of her pregnancy except that she threatened their leader that she will detonate a grenade if she will not be allowed to go down. Also in 2019, alias Saisai a former NPA medic, married and from Agusan del Norte was raped and impregnated by their NPA leader but suffered a miscarriage.

In April 19, 2018, Susan Guaynon, a pregnant 20-year old NPA was abandoned by her companions after a firefight in Bukidnon. She was given proper care by soldiers and underwent surgery in Cagayan de Oro City. Also in 2018, alias Wilma, a former NPA medic from Magpet North Cotabato revealed that she and other female companions were sexually abused by their NPA leader.

Last April 21, 2020 the Geroche family of Brgy.Dalimdim, Laak, Davao de Oro were targetted by NPA terrorists. Roldan, the head of the family was killed simply because he is the father of Ronalyn a former rebel who surrendered after she was raped by alias Wendel, her NPA recruiter.

Years back, former rebels Marife Benusa alias Juliet and one alias Sisa revealed their personal plight on sexual opportunism and financial corruption of NPA leaders and senior members inside the underground movement.

Major General Diñoso III appealed to all female NPA combatants to surrender to save them from further humiliation due to sexual abuses by some NPA Leaders. “Do not allow these brutal NPA Leaders to trample upon your dignity and lose your self-worth as a woman. Come to us and we will help you regain your life back.”





Calbiga COVID-19 food supplies
The local government unit of Calbiga, Samar purchases all harvests of the agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) to give variation to the relief assistance provided to its residents.

5 DAR-assisted farmer organizations are town’s food supplier amidst COVID-19 crisis

April 25, 2020

CALBIGA, Samar – They used to supply vegetables and other farm products for the feeding program in Day Care centers throughout this town.

Now, Samar Provincial Agrarian Reform Program Officer Celsa Mabutin disclosed that the local government unit (LGU) is buying all the agricultural products of these five Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR)-assisted farmer organizations here to feed its residents during this global crisis due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Mabutin further disclosed that the five agrarian reform beneficiaries organizations (ARBOs) are the Calbiga Vegetable Growers Association, Panayuran Upland Farmers Association, Brgy. Bulao Farmers Association, Canbagtic Farmers Association, and Borong Active Farmers Association.

The farmers’ products will give variation to the canned goods commonly provided during relief assistance distribution. With this move, the LGU is incorporating nutritious foods to every household.

According to Municipal Nutrition Action Officer and member of the Municipal COVID Task Force, Evelyn Jabonete, in a Facebook post by the National Nutrition Council Region VIII, available sources of foods in the locality during the quarantine period is very important.

Instead of transporting our agricultural products to other areas, let us serve these to our local households, she added.

With the temporary suspension of holding “tabo” or flea market pursuant to Executive Order No. 10, series of 2020, issued by Mayor Melchor Nacario, as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the LGU buy and pick-up all the farmers’ harvests in their respective areas.

Among the ARBOs’ products purchased by the concerned LGU include: string beans, upo, eggplant, bitter gourd, banana, sweet potato, cassava, corn, sweet pepper, gabi, pineapple, loofah, Baguio beans, tomato, okra, hot pepper, ginger and papaya.

Based on the sales record of the five ARBOs, they earned a combined amount of more than P288,000 from April 3 to 8 and April 13 to 17, or during the quarantine period.

Though the town is now under enhanced community quarantine effective April 15 to 30 this year, pursuant to Executive Order No. 11, series of 2020, issued by Nacario on April 14, farmers and fisherfolks will be given exemption passes by the Municipal Agriculture Office to go about their daily routine for food security considerations.

Furthermore, DAR-8 Regional Director Stephen Leonidas ordered the field implementers to provide the agrarian reform beneficiaries and ARBOs throughout the region the agency issued quarantine accreditation pass, as authorized by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF-EID), for the continuous supply of agricultural products.

These five ARBOs, Mabutin said, are recipients of DAR’s Partnership Against Hunger and Poverty (PAHP) program, which is in collaboration with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the LGU.

Under this collaboration, the LGU purchases farm products from the ARBOs for the feeding program in Day Care Centers of the DSWD.





hunger and malnutrition in COVID-19
A mother smiles while carrying her daughter as they stand by the door of their water refilling station.. They are one of the families living in Navotas, which is placed under enhanced community quarantine. (Photo by Lei Tapang/Save the Children)

Save the Children PH calls on LGUs: Sustain programs to address children’s hunger and malnutrition in COVID-19 response

By Save the Children PH
April 25, 2020

MANILA – Save the Children Philippines calls on local community leaders to resume health and nutrition services for children such as immunization, and maternal and new-born care as part of the COVID-19 response, following the extension of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) until May 15 in the National Capital Region and key areas with high rates of infection.

The COVID-19 pandemic response must safeguard children’s rights to survive, learn, and be protected.

Atty. Alberto Muyot, Chief Executive Officer of Save the Children Philippines said many people perceive that children are not affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, but in reality, children, mostly those who come from low-income families and living in hard-to-reach areas, face the long-term and irreversible impact of stunting- the worst form of malnutrition due to prolonged hunger and undernutrition.

“We understand that the decision to extend the enhanced community quarantine in key areas with high COVID-19 cases will help save lives, but child-centered services must immediately resume in all barangays to make sure children from low income families will not die from preventable causes, many of which are aggravated by severe malnutrition,” said Muyot.

Child malnutrition in the Philippines is one of the highest in the world with one in three children below five years old is stunted.

In 2018, at least 48.2 per cent of infants age six to 11 months have anemia due to poor feeding practices and inadequate food intake.

“The loss of income by thousands of families, especially the vulnerable groups, can immediately translate into not being able to put food on the table resulting to thousands of children who will go to bed hungry,” said Muyot, as he called on the local government officials to expedite the release of cash assistance and other economic support to qualified families under the social amelioration program.

He also said local governments should integrate protection of children from violence, abuse or exploitation as part of the COVID-19 pandemic community response.

“Many children may suffer and witness abuse and violence at home due to heightened stress, anger and anxiety of parents and guardians following the loss of jobs and livelihood, and the uncertainty of how to provide for their family,” said Muyot.

Save the Children Philippines believes that children’s rights must be at the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic response to ensure that an entire generation does not suffer the catastrophic, long-term consequences of the outbreak. To meet their needs, children also need to be involved in preventing the spread of the virus and in mitigating the impact of the disease.





seized high powered firearms in Northern Samar
Recovered war materials during encounter of 20IB with CNTs at Brgy P Rebadulla, Catubig, Northern Samar on April 23, 2020.

20IB overruns CNTs’ lair, seizes high powered firearms in Northern Samar

April 25, 2020

CAMP LUKBAN, Catbalogan City, Samar – Troops from 20th Infantry (WE LEAD) Battalion, 8th Infantry Division, Philippine Army overran Communist Terrorist Group’s (CTG) lair and seized high powered firearms and other war materiel in an encounter at the vicinity of Barangay P. Rebadulla, Catubig, Northern Samar at about 3 o’clock in the afternoon, April 23, 2020.

Based on the initial report from Lieutenant Colonel Juan A Gullem, Commanding Officer of 20IB, his troops, while responding to the local residents’ complaint about the CTG’s continued interruption on the completion of government projects in the Pacific towns and hampering the distribution of the Social Amelioration Program (SAP), engaged in a 20-minute firefight which led the CPP-NPA Terrorists (CNTs) to abandon the said lair and withdrew towards the mountainous area of the said barangay.

The enemy’s lair can accommodate more or less 40 CNTs and has one (1) multi-purpose hall, eleven (11) bunkers, nineteen (19) makeshift tents, one (1) comfort room, one (1) kitchen and three (3) posts.

The troops seized two (2) M14 rifles; one (1) AK47 with four (4) magazines; one (1) M16 rifle with seven (7) magazines; one (1) M653; one (1) Cal. 22 (rifle converted); twelve (12) IEDs; one (1) hand grenade; three (3) bandoleers; one (1) Baofeng radio with charger; one (1) cellular phone; twenty (20) backpacks; assorted medical supplies and subversive documents with high intelligence value.

No casualty was reported on the government side while undetermined casualties on the enemy’s side as evidenced by the bloodstains found on the route of withdrawal.

Troops under the 20IB are on search and pursuit operation to sustain and ensure that the CNTs will be apprehended.

Hon. Edwin Marino Ongchuan, Governor of Northern Samar Province remarked, “The dedication of uniformed men on the face of this COVID-19 public health emergency is commendable. It clearly attests to the seriousness of our government forces in crushing the enemies of the state. We denounce this act of atrocity and all other acts by individuals or groups who take advantage of this COVID health crisis to sow fear and disorder in the community.”

Colonel Lowell R. Tan, Commander of 803rd Infantry (PEACEMAKER) Brigade, in his statement, “The overwhelming support of the populace who are already fed up of the rebels’ assaults and atrocities provides our security forces timely information leading to a successful operation that brings us one step closer to peace and prosperity.”





Inflation rate in EV rises to 2.2% in March 2020

By PSA-8
April 21, 2020

TACLOBAN CITY – Inflation Rate (IR) in Eastern Visayas rose to 2.2 percent in March 2020. This IR is 0.3 percentage point higher compared with the 1.9 percent IR in February 2020. This is also higher by 0.1 percentage point than the recorded 2.1 percent IR in the same period last year.

EV March 2020 Inflation rateThe regional IR is 0.3 percentage point lower than the 2.5 percent national average inflation rate in March 2020.

Eastern Samar, Southern Leyte, Biliran and Leyte registered higher inflation rates in March 2020 compared with their figures in February 2020. Eastern Samar recorded the highest increase of 0.8 percentage point. It rose to 3.1 percent IR in March 2020 from 2.3 percent IR in February 2020. On the other hand, Samar registered a 0.8 percentage point decrease in IR. It dropped to 2.3 percent in March 2020 from 3.1 percent in February 2020. Northern Samar eased down to 3.5 percent in March 2020 from 3.6 percent in February 2020 but still recorded the highest IR among the provinces in the region. Southern Leyte, meanwhile, posted the lowest IR among the provinces during the month in review at 1.4 percent.

Majority of the commodity groups in the region exhibited higher IRs in March 2020 compared with their rates in February 2020. Housing, water, gas, electricity and other fuels commodity group registered the biggest increase of 1.0 percentage point, from 0.9 percent deflation in February 2020 to 0.1 percent inflation in March 2020. This increase can be attributed to the inflation recorded in the actual rentals for housing index (7.5 percent); maintenance and repair of the dwelling index (2.6 percent); and water supply and miscellaneous services relating to the dwelling index (0.1 percent) in March 2020. The double-digit deflation rate of 11.0 percent in electricity, gas and other fuels, however, eased the impact of those increases to the overall IR of the commodity group.

The IR of the commodity group of alcoholic beverages and tobacco increased by 0.6 percentage point, pushing its IR to 9.1 percent in March 2020.

Restaurants and miscellaneous goods and services commodity group, and health commodity group both registered 0.4 percentage point increases in their IRs, posted at 5.4 percent and 1.6 percent, respectively, during the reference month.

The IR of heavily weighted food and non-alcoholic beverages commodity group increased to 1.8 percent in March 2020 from 1.6 percent in February 2020. Higher IRs were noted in majority of the food items. Fruits index registered the highest increase of 1.1 percentage points, from 5.9 percent in February 2020 to 7.0 percent in March 2020. Fish index continued to register a double-digit IR during the reference month at 12.4 percent, the highest among all items. These increases were slowed down by the continued deflation in rice and bread and cereals indices, at 5.1 percent and 3.6 percent, respectively.

IRs for clothing and footwear commodity group and communication commodity group inched up by 0.1 percentage point, registering 2.9 percent and 1.3 percent IRs in March 2020, respectively.

On the other hand, IR for transport commodity group declined by 4.0 percentage points. It went down to 0.9 percent in March 2020 from 4.9 percent in February 2020. This can be attributed to the 5.0 percent deflation recorded in the index for operation of personal transport equipment.

The commodity group of furnishings, household equipment and routine maintenance of the house eased down to 4.3 percent in March 2020 from 4.5 percent in February 2020.

The Purchasing Power of Peso (PPP) of the region was recorded at P0.79 in March 2020. This PPP implies that the goods and services worth P79.00 in 2012 is worth P100.00 in March 2020.

All provinces in the region sustained their PPP last month. Biliran, Leyte and Southern Leyte recorded the strongest PPP at P0.81, followed by Eastern Samar at P0.76 and Samar at P0.74. Northern Samar posted the weakest PPP at P0.73.






Filipino cacao beans in European markets
From L to R: Silva Cacao Chief Cacaopreneur Katrien Delaet, Auro Chocolate Davao Operations Manager Louie Cena, Auro Chocolate Co-founder Mark Ocampo, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, PTIC Commercial Counsellor Ben Uy, Chocolate Historian & Author Valentine Tibere, and Silva Cacao Founder Ms. Sylvie Guillaume.

DTI lauds arrival of Filipino cacao beans in European markets

April 21, 2020

MANILA – Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez congratulates Auro Chocolate for being the first Philippine company to provide a major shipment of cacao beans to the European market. On 16 April 2020, the container shipment of Mindanao-sourced, premium cacao beans arrived at the port of Antwerp, Belgium.

The shipment, which brought 20,000kg of cacao beans to Belgium, is composed of five different cacao varieties, including the Paquibato Origin, winner of the Cocoa Excellence Award in 2019.

“We are very proud of Auro Chocolate for their success and even more excited for what this would mean to our cacao farmers,” said Sec. Lopez.

The trade secretary added that the shipment not only meant the introduction of Philippine cacao to renowned markets in Europe but also signified the strengthening of country pride, especially for Filipino farmers, to the Western trade.

Last May 2019, the Philippine Trade and Investment Center (PTIC) Brussels, in partnership with the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM) and the Regional Operations Group (ROG), facilitated European cacao and chocolate experts to attend the International Food Exhibit (IFEX) and visit cacao farms in Mindanao. Among the delegates included Silva Cacao, the Antwerp-based company responsible for bringing the shipment to Belgium.

Silva Cacao General Manager Katrien Delaet expressed confidence in the introduction of diverse flavors of Philippine cacao to European chocolate makers.

“I am sure that chocolate makers can’t wait to start working with these cacao beans. By adding their own magic, chocolate makers can bring out the best of the flavours in each cacao quality – from fruity, to floral, to nutty, to woody, to caramel, and much more. Chocolate lovers all over Europe will be in for a surprise!” Delaet said.

She added, “We are very grateful that the PTIC helped paved the way for us to learn more about Philippine cacao. We discovered amazing qualities. And with this award for the Paquibato cacao, the Philippines is in the top 20 best cacaos worldwide, and even in the top 5 in Asia. Never before has a Philippine cacao won this award; it is indeed a recognition of the premium cacao produced in the country.”

Meanwhile, PTIC Director and Commercial Counsellor Benedict Uy expressed hope for the business community amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“While current business climate in Europe is dampened by the COVID-19 issue and lockdowns, we share the optimism and eagerness of the business community, including the Belgian and European chocolate makers, that things will be well again in the coming months,” he said.

Sec. Lopez added that the good news serves as a silver lining and an inspiration for the agricultural sector despite the harsh impact of the global pandemic.





Chicken production in Eastern Visayas surge by 6.9% in the fourth quarter of 2019

By PSA-8
April 21, 2020

TACLOBAN CITY – The volume of chicken production in Eastern Visayas increased by 6.9 percent during the fourth quarter of 2019. It went up to 16,673 metric tons (MT) in the fourth quarter of 2019 from 15,602 MT in the same quarter of 2018.

Eastern Visayas production accounted for 3.2 percent of the country’s total chicken production during the fourth quarter of 2019. It ranked eighth among regions with the highest chicken production in the country.

The chicken population in Eastern Visayas dropped by 15.8 percent, from 2,524,559 birds as of 1 January 2019 to 2,124,681 birds as of 1 January 2020.

All provinces contributed to the decline in chicken population, except for Northern Samar and Southern Leyte which posted increases at 16.8 percent and 4.5 percent, respectively.

Among provinces, Leyte recorded the highest chicken population at 831,095 birds as of 1 January 2020. It comprised more than one third (39.1 percent) of the total chicken population in the region. Southern Leyte ranked second with 438,709 birds, accounting for 20.6 percent of the region’s total chicken inventory. Eastern Samar, meanwhile, registered the lowest inventory of chicken with a 4.1 percent share or 87,268 birds.

Among the type of chicken, only layer chickens posted an increase at 7.9 percent, from 452,613 birds as of 1 January 2019 to 488,322 birds as of 1 January 2020. Northern Samar recorded the highest increase at 67.1 percent, followed by Southern Leyte at 8.0 percent. Leyte posted the lowest increase at 2.0 percent. Meanwhile, Eastern Samar, Samar and Biliran declined by 41.9 percent, 19.2 percent and 12.3 percent, respectively.

Broiler chickens dropped tremendously by almost half (46.8 percent) of its inventory, from 472,666 birds as of 1 January 2019 to 251,348 birds as of 1 January 2020. This was largely attributed to the zero or no inventory of broiler chicken in Samar Province due to downtime period on 1 January 2020. Eastern Samar recorded the highest decrease at 91.7 percent. Likewise, Leyte’s broiler population, which shared 57.0 percent of the region’s total broiler population as of 1 January 2020, also declined by 5.6 percent. Southern Leyte’s broiler chicken population, on the other hand, expanded by 90.5 percent. It increased to 61,540 birds as of 1 January 2020 from 32,298 birds as of 1 January 2019.

The number of native/improved chickens also went down by 13.4 percent, from a total inventory of 1,599,280 birds as of 1 January 2019 to 1,385,011 birds as of 1 January 2020. All provinces contributed to the decline in the inventory of native/improved chicken in the region.

About 65.2 percent of the chicken population were native/improved chickens. Layer chickens accounted for 23.0 percent, while broiler chickens comprised 11.8 percent.

Q4 2019 Eastern Visayas Chicken production





DTI mobilizes FabLabs to surmount COVID crisis

April 20, 2020

MAKATI CITY – The Department of Trade and Industry-Regional Operations Group (DTI-ROG), spearheaded by Undersecretary Blesila Lantayona, and DTI-Region 7 have activated its network of fabrication laboratories (FabLabs) in Central Visayas to produce personal protective equipment (PPEs) in the fight against the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).

FabLabs made PPEsA team of volunteers, faculty members and staff at school-based FabLabs in the region have designed and produced personal protective equipment to contribute to the much-needed supply of PPEs in the region.

Central Visayas has eight FabLabs three located in Bohol, Negros Oriental and Siquijor, and five in Cebu.

“As of April 16 this year, FabLabs in Central Visayas have produced 24,358 face shields, 4,093 cloth face masks, 359 medical gowns, and 20 aerosol boxes. All eight fablabs in Central Visayas have been busy for the past month producing PPEs,” Philippines’ FabLab Champion and DTI-Region 7 Assistant Regional Director Maria Elena Arbon reported.

Arbon also said that FabLabs in Central Visayas are part of a network of FabLabs in the Philippines working closely together with their stakeholders, and partners in both government and private sectors, to respond to the needs amid the pandemic outbreak in our country.

“Overall, Fablabs in the Philippines produced 46,055 face shields, 23,104 cloth face masks, 1,201 medical gowns, and 217 aerosol boxes as of April 16, 202. We are still accepting donations of raw materials for the production of the PPEs,” said Arbon.

Director Arbon encourages everyone to visit the following google site, https://tinyurl.com/FablabPHResponse, to link themselves to a FabLab near their vicinity and ask for any assistance that the laboratory can do. This is also a way for local suppliers of raw materials to get in touch with FabLabs in their area so these facilities can continue with the mass production.

DTI-ROG Assistant Secretary Asteria Caberte, who pushed for the funding of the project and boosted morale of volunteers, informed the public that FabLabs are not the only DTI-assisted programs responding to the COVID crisis.

“We have DTI assisted MSMEs such as Uniform Solutions, Tubigon Loomweavers Multi-purpose Cooperative, LAMAC Multi-purpose Cooperative and Alter to Enhance Clothier that are also mass producing cloth face masks. These cooperatives and business enterprises are repurposing their manufacturing capacity to meet local demand. We have always encouraged those we have assisted to exercise their corporate responsibility and give back to the community in whatever way they can,” Asec. Caberte added.

A fabrication laboratory is a technical prototyping platform for innovation and invention that allows local manufacturers and creatives to make prototypes and products such as equipment, machinery and electronic gadgets; create scale models, illustrate graphic designs and mass-produce products, among others. A fab lab is typically equipped with an array of flexible computer-controlled tools that cover several different length scales and various materials, with the aim to make "almost anything".

FabLabs in the Philippines are closely aligned with the global open-source maker culture, and the free and open-source movement, and shares philosophy as well as technology with them.

The International FabLab Network is an open, creative community of fabricators, artists, scientists, engineers, educators, students, amateurs, professionals, of all ages located in more than 90 countries in approximately 1,500 FabLabs. From community based labs to advanced research centers, Fab Labs share the goal of democratizing access to the tools for technical invention and product innovation.





Workers calls for post-lockdown health and death insurance coverage for new potent workplace hazard 2019 coronavirus disease

By Associated Labor Unions
April 20, 2020

QUEZON CITY – The country's biggest group of unions the Associated Labor Unions (ALU) is calling the Employment Compensation Commission (ECC) to include in their work-related compensation programs and services the hospitalization and death benefits insurance to government and private employees who might be exposed to a new, potent and dreaded workplace hazard COVID-19 inside work establishments and while performing job function.

The COVID-19 employment insurance coverage is important because of the great danger and hazard it poses to returning employees once the Enhanced Community Quarantine is lifted, the group insists.

The ECC is a quasi-judicial corporate entity attached to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) created to implement the Employees' Compensation Program by providing package of benefits for public and private sector employees and their dependents in the event of work-connected contingencies such as sickness, injury, disability or death.

It is tasked by law to develop and implement effective occupational safety and health policies and programs for the promotion of a healthy working population and provide workers and their dependents with benefits and rehabilitation services in the event of work-connected accident, injury, illness and death using a part of the fund from monthly remittance collected by the Social Security System (SSS).

According to the labor federation, the insurance coverage must be in force as soon as the community quarantine is lifted and employees are allowed to return to their places of work.

ALU National Executive Vice President Gerard Seno said the it is important for ECC to classify COVID-19 as a 'dreaded disease' so that formal government and private sector employees who will return to work following once the enhanced community quarantine lockdown order is lifted on April 30th are protected.

"We urge the ECC board to immediately issue a resolution providing insurance coverage for employees in private and government sectors as safety net for workers who might be infected or exposed to the COVID-19 hazard risk on the way or from work and or have been exposed inside the work establishments," Seno said.

The call was made as ALU and other stakeholder labor groups helps the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) draft a COVID-19 occupational safety and health (OSH) guidelines which would serve as the standard protocols for employers and employees in preventing, controlling and managing COVID-19 in workplaces once employees are allowed to go back to work.

Seno said the OSH guidelines must be in place on or before the resumption of work so that workers who will return to work will not be unnecessarily exposed to COVID-19 while in transit and while inside the workplace.

"These guidelines protocols are important for workers working in hospitals, clinics, media stores, restaurants, hotels, public transportation, malls, offices, banks, factories, among others. If these OSH standards are not being followed, thousands of workers, including their family members and co-workers, will be exposed to COVID-19," Seno said.





CNT leader killed, high powered firearm and explosive seized in Calbiga, Samar

Killed CNT leader in Calbiga

April 19, 2020

CAMP LUKBAN, Catbalogan City – Elements of the 46th Infantry Battalion, 8th Infantry Division, Philippine Army encountered more or less five fully armed men believed to be remnants of a Communist NPA Terrorist (CNT) group operating in southern part Samar resulting to the death of CNT leader Noel Galvez alias Bani in a 3-minute firefight at the vicinity of Brgy. Buluan, Calbiga, Samar at around 5:15 in the morning of April 18, 2020.

There was no casualty in the government forces while the enemy, aside from the killed CNT leader, one (1) M14 rifle loaded with ammunition and one (1) Improvised Explosive Device (IED) with estimated weight of seven kilograms were seized.

The gunfight was the result of the timely report of some concerned civilians pertaining the presence of the CNTs led by Galvez harassing the populace.

The same group of CNTs was responsible for the murder of former rebel Ildefonso Nablo Jr alias Marwan last April 9, 2020.

Lieutenant Colonel Rhomel R. Langcauon, Commanding Officer of 46IB lauded his troops for the successful community security operation. He also thanked the vigilance of the community for the timely information provided to the security forces.

Colonel Camilo Z. Ligayo, Commander of 801st Infantry Brigade stated, "The neutralization of Noel Galvez alias Bani will bring a strong and clear message to the rebels that the government is serious in ending local communist armed conflict in Eastern Visayas."

"We will pursue these terrorists with the help of the community until they run out of ground to retreat to", Ligayo added.





Discontinuation of DOLE cash assistance sow confusion, demoralization & consternation among millions of displaced workers

April 17, 2020

QUEZON CITY – Millions of locked down rank-and-file workers felt betrayed by the discontinuation of cash dole out provided by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to incomeless employees displaced by the government imposition of Luzon-wide extended enhanced community quarantine lockdown shutdown of all work establishments and business operations beginning March 15th last month to minimize local transmission of novel 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19), according to the country's biggest workers group Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP).

The DOLE on Thursday announced the suspension of five thousand peso financial assistance under the Covid Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP) for formal sector workers effective April 15, 2020 following near depletion of the program's P1.6 billion budget.

A statement from the DOLE said the program has disbursed P1.2 billion which benefitted 236,412 employees of 10,663 work establishments since they begin the payout on March 23 or eight days after the total lockdown. The DOLE said there were 1.4 million work establishments and enterprises have rendered reported they were affected by the expanded ECQ.

"Because of this cash assistance stoppage, jobless ordinary workers and their families are confused and felt betrayed right now. Millions of locked down workers particularly those who have yet to receive the cash grant are feeling betrayed by the stoppage of their only lifeline cash assistance. Displaced workers felt they were pushed into lockdown, deprived of their jobs, kept in the dark corner and left out amid hunger, poverty and fear," said TUCP president and TUCP Party-list Rep. Raymond Mendoza.

The labor group said the Inter-Agency Task Force must immediately, widely and clearly explain the matter with the ordinary workers and avoid confusion.

"To cure the gaping widespread confusion and insecurity, we urged the government to clarify the matter immediately and clearly to the millions of displaced workers particularly those who have yet to receive the CAMP cash assistance," Mendoza said.

The TUCP said there at least 4 million rank-and-file workers were rendered jobless by the government imposed lockdown to minimize local transmission of COVID-19.





Higher risk of online sexual abuse and exploitation of children during quarantine

SaferKidsPH promotes child online safety in support of the national COVID-19 response

Press Release
April 17, 2020

MANILA – SaferKidsPH, a consortium of Save the Children Philippines, The Asia Foundation and UNICEF, and funded by the Australian Government, is expanding its efforts to protect children against online sexual abuse and exploitation during the COVID-19 enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

While online platforms are used for positive learning and socialising, they can also expose children to cyberbullying, online sexual abuse and exploitation, and other forms of harm. These risks are greater during the quarantine period, as children spend more time online, with or without the guidance of a parent or carer.

Starting April 15, SaferKidsPH in collaboration with the Department of Information and Communications Technology, the National Telecommunications Commission, Smart Communications, and Globe Telecom will launch an SMS campaign focusing on practical child online safety measures that can be used during the COVID-19 ECQ. Mobile subscribers will be invited to visit the platforms of SaferKidsPH and UNICEF for more information.

During this enhanced community quarantine, children could be at a higher risk of being exposed to online predators. But this is not the only threat. Unfortunately, most cases of online sexual exploitation of children in the Philippines involve parents or family members as facilitators. As the country bunkers down to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, more children could be subject to exploitation in their own homes.

Brigadier General Alessandro C. Abella, Chief of the Philippine National Police-Women and Children Protection Center (PNP-WCPC), said that during the lockdown, his staff will continue to receive, monitor, and respond to online sexual abuse and exploitation of children-related reports. “Even in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, the PNP-WCPC continues to be aggressive in its fight against online sexual exploitation of children,” he said.

For more information on how to stay safe online and how you can help stop online sexual exploitation of children, please visit www.saferkidsph.org. You may also follow SaferKidsPH on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

For further support, you can call the following helplines:

1) PNP Aleng Pulis - +63 919 777 7377

2) Action Against Human Trafficking - 1343 within Metro Manila; (02) 1343 outside Metro Manila

3) Bantay Bata - 163

4) UP-PGH COVID-19 Bayanihan Operations Center - 155 200 or https://publicservice.up.edu.ph/uppgh-bayanihan-na.





A child inside evacuation center
Aubek with her child, Raiven, inside the evacuation center where they are staying in Irosin, Sorsogon. (LJ Pasion/Save the Children)

Save the Children Philippines to LGUs: No Milk Formula in the time of COVID-19

By Save the Children Philippines
April 17, 2020

MANILA – Save the Children Philippines is urging local government units (LGUs), private groups, charitable organizations and individuals to adhere to existing laws that prohibit the distribution of infant formula or breastmilk substitute as part of relief goods to encourage breastfeeding among mothers, ensure good health and adequate nutrition of infants and young children.

Atty. Alberto Muyot, Chief Executive Officer of Save the Children Philippines, said nutrition and health support to children, pregnant and lactating mothers must be integrated into the national and local government response during the COVID-19 pandemic including the promotion of breastfeeding.

Several cities and municipalities have been distributing milk formula as part of relief goods to their constituents, which raised concerns of breastfeeding advocates.

“Children suffer the worst impact of the COVID-19 pandemic due to rising levels of poverty, ill-health, and malnutrition,” said Atty. Muyot. “We call on local governments to support parents and guardians by encouraging mothers to breastfeed, and provide access to affordable and healthy food.”

He said donations of infant formula in times of disasters, calamities, and emergencies including pandemic are strictly prohibited under the Milk Code or Executive Order 51 of 1986, the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion under Republic Act 10028, and the Republic Act 11148 or Kalusugan at Nutrisyon ng Mag-Nanay Act which is being implemented nationwide. Save the Children Philippines joins the Department of Health and the National Nutrition Council in calling all LGUs to strictly adhere to these laws and guidelines, especially during emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic.

These laws mandate local government units to establish milk banks during emergency situations to provide access to breastmilk when mothers become sick or not able to breastfeed their babies. The milk banks will provide a venue for lactating mothers who wish to donate their breastmilk.

Dr. Amado Parawan, Health and Nutrition Advisor of Save the Children Philippines said breastfeeding during the COVID-19 pandemic is highly encouraged to strengthen the immune system of babies, protect children from respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses, prevent malnutrition, and ensure bonding between the mother and her baby. He said breastmilk is safe and ensures babies grow up healthy, and increases IQ.

“Breastmilk is the best source of nutrition for babies and there is no milk formula that can provide the same optimum health and nutrition benefits to infants and young children,” said Dr. Parawan.

He added that colostrum – the first milk formed after the delivery of the newborn contains antibodies that protect the newborn against diseases. Recent studies also state that colostrum has properties against diseases caused by viruses.

He said mothers, even those infected by COVID-19, can still continue breastfeeding while limiting the baby’s exposure to the virus by using respiratory precautions. Mothers who have been infected by COVID-19 may choose to breastfeed, but they must wear a facemask and wash hands thoroughly with soap and water. “There are no clear scientific studies that the Coronavirus can be transmitted through breastmilk,” said Dr. Parawan.

Also, mothers who are sick can choose to manually express breastmilk to maintain milk supply. These mothers should wash their hands properly before doing breast milk expression.

Dr. Parawan said expectant mothers should eat healthy food, maintain personal hygiene, and take iron folic supplements. Breastfeeding mothers must have a support system through their husbands, partners, and other members of the family.

He reminded pregnant mothers to go to birthing facilities, lying-in clinics, and infirmary with a midwife, nurse, or doctor as many hospitals are crowded with COVID-19 patients. He also advised mothers giving birth to seek help from health and nutrition workers and breastfeeding support groups when facing difficulties in initiating and continuing breastfeeding.

Save the Children Philippines advocated for the passage of First 1,000 Days law or RA 11148, which mandates exclusive breastfeeding for babies up to six months and continued breastfeeding up to two years while starting complementary feeding.

“Children, including pregnant and lactating mothers, are most vulnerable during COVID-19 pandemic, and local government units should prioritize their health and nutrition,” said Dr. Parawan.





NPA insists to inflict chaos over COVID-19 pandemic in Nothern Samar

April 12, 2020

CAMP LUKBAN, Catbalogan City – The troops of the 20th Infantry Battalion of the 8th Infantry Division, Philippine Army, while conducting community protection patrol in response to a report from concerned civilians on the presence of armed group, were fired upon by about ten (10) Communist NPA Terrorists (CNTs) at the vicinity of Brgy Diit de Turag, Silvino Lubos, Northern Samar at 9:45 in the morning, today, April 11, 2020.

The 5-minute firefight urged the CNTs to retreat and took the north direction of Brgy. Ynaguingayan, Pambujan, same province. The troops seized one Huawei touch screen cellphone, one backpack, fourteen live ammunition of M16 rifle, one live ammunition of M14 rifle, and subversive documents. There is no reported casualty in the government side while it is still undetermined on the enemies’ side.

It can be recalled that on April 6, 2020 four improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were recovered in the vicinity of Brgy. Hubasan, Calbiga, Samar with the CNTs' intent to victimize frontliners conducting COVID-19 prevention efforts.

In the morning of April 7, 2020, about 30 CNTs swooped down on Sitio Bangon, Barangay Guinmayohan, Balangiga, Eastern Samar and took the relief goods intended for the locals.

While in the afternoon of same day, more or less fifteen (15) CNTs harassed and forcibly took foodstuffs from the populace of Brgy. Lakandula, Las Navas, Northern Samar resulting to an encounter where one soldier was wounded.

It is worth mentioning that on March 19, 2020, President Rodrigo R. Duterte declared a unilateral ceasefire with the CPP-NPA-NDF as the Communist Party of the Philippines ordered its armed regulars on March 26, 2020 to observe a ceasefire with the government.

These willful series of attacks by the terrorists are violative of the unilateral ceasefire between the state and the CPP-NPA.

The terrorists are purposely casting the sufferings of the residents caused by the COVID-19 pandemic by orchestrating attacks that induce fear to the whole community.

Colonel Zosimo A. Oliveros, Commander, 803rd Infantry (Peacemaker) Brigade, in his message said that “The violence concerted by the CNTs are causing tremendous effect to the community while the peace arms of the government are focused in alleviating the crisis brought by the corona virus. Your army, however, assures the public that we will, at all times, defend the citizenry and will remain steadfast to grapple against the terroristic acts of our enemies”.

“We convey our utmost gratitude to the concerned citizens for providing us information of the whereabouts of our enemies and we plea that you will continue to work with us to prevent the enemies from causing harm to the whole populace”, Oliveros added.





CPP-NPA aggravates COVID-19 crisis situation in Northern Samar

April 8, 2020

CAMP LUKBAN, Catbalogan City – The 20th Infantry Battalion, 8th Infantry Division, Philippine Army received a report from a concerned civilian pertaining the presence of an armed group believed to be Communist NPA Terrorists (CNTs) harassing the locals of Brgy. Lakandula, Las Navas, Northern Samar. The CNTs were forcefully collecting foods and other basic commodities while the village is on General Community Quarantine (GCQ) due to COVID-19 which prompted the military to conduct Community Protection Patrol and engage in a firefight more or less fifteen (15) CNTs on April 7, 2020 at around 2:50 in the afternoon.

The encounter resulted to the wounding of one soldier while there are undetermined number of casualties of the enemies as evidenced by bloodstains found in the enemy's escape route.

It can be recalled that on March 19, 2020, President Rodrigo R. Duterte declared a unilateral ceasefire with the CPP-NPA to which the CPP ordered the NPA on March 26, 2020 a similar ceasefire with the government as the nation grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic.

"While the entire nation is battling the contagion, the CNTs are taking advantage of the ceasefire by regrouping and arming themselves to orchestrate an attack against our government forces. The enemies are intimidating the populace who are already experiencing fear and uncertainty due to the GCQ by forcibly extracting food causing thereby scarcity of resources in the far-flung communities.”, stated Major General Pio Q. Dinoso III AFP, Commander of 8ID.

"This deliberate violation of the ceasefire by the NPA will not hamper the delivery of the urgently needed medical, health and economic assistance as well as the movement of the people. Your Army assures the public that we will not drop our guard in securing the people and to work with the government to bring back normalcy in our lives that are derailed by the dreaded virus”, Dinoso added.





Save the Children Philippines supply distribution
A child shows their family’s one month supply of hygiene essentials (i.e. soap and alcohol) distributed by Save the Children Philippines on April 3, 2020 in Navotas. (Photo by Lei Tapang/Save the Children)

Save the Children launches its biggest ever appeal to protect children from COVID-19

Press Release
April 7, 2020

MANILA – Save the Children has launched a global appeal to raise US$100 Million to manage the spread of COVID-19 and support survival through food security among the most vulnerable families across 120 countries, including the Philippines.

The biggest appeal since the 1918-1920 Spanish Flu pandemic, Save the Children believes that “early action is critical because a delay will cost lives, and rob children of opportunities.”

Tagged as #ProtectAGeneration, the appeal coincides with the World Health Day celebration on April 7, where the roles of nurses and midwives are recognized to keep the world healthy amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Atty. Alberto Muyot, Chief Executive Officer of Save the Children Philippines says that the COVID-19 pandemic spares no one – both rich and poor, young and old, but those who have the least in life, and not able to cope will be hit first and hardest, including the vulnerable and deprived children and their families.

“Children suffer the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Atty. Muyot. The rising deaths of adults leave children without parents, and guardians, while the loss of income for families is causing widespread hunger and poverty.

The 100-years of Save the Children’s expertise in providing a humanitarian response to a pandemic dates back to the Spanish flu in 1918.

“We need to go back and remember at how we started as a humanitarian organization,” said Muyot. “We need to be where we are most needed by children and their families.”

In the Philippines, the funds will be used to support the most vulnerable children and their families with hygiene essentials to ward off diseases, cash assistance to help them recover from the unintended impact of the enhanced community quarantine, and educate families about the importance of physical distancing, proper hygiene and other behaviors needed to prevent and reduce transmission of the deadly virus.

Over half a million community health workers are currently providing support in 44 countries, including the Philippines. Save the Children Philippines support community health workers who attend to the health and nutrition needs of the most deprived children and families in Southern Mindanao, communities in Samar province, and in the cities of Navotas, Caloocan, and Malabon in Metro Manila.

Atty. Muyot also said the funds will support education personnel and government health agencies to equip local health workers with the required personal protective equipment and medical supplies, training, and mental health and psychosocial support.

He also raised concern that more children now experience hunger, poor health, and malnutrition as thousands of families face a loss of income, including those in the informal sector due to limited mobility during Enhanced Community Quarantine. “School closures also pose risks on children who will be forced to work to earn a living for their families while adolescent girls may end up in early marriage,” said Atty. Muyot.

Dr. Amado Parawan, Health and Nutrition Advisor of Save the Children Philippines said the loss of jobs and stable income of parents, guardians during quarantine is expected to increase the cases of malnutrition in the country.

He said families must ensure they have at least five (5) servings of fruits and vegetables every day, and drink 8-10 glasses of water to boost their immune system. Parents and guardians were also advised to serve healthy meals to children instead of junk foods.

Prior to COVID-19 pandemic, the country’s child malnutrition rate is one of the highest in the world, with one in three children under 5 years of age is stunted due to prolonged hunger resulting in chronic malnutrition.

At the same time, at least 48.2 per cent of babies six to 11 months have anemia due to poor feeding practices and inadequate food, according to the 2018 Expanded National Nutrition Survey by the Department of Science and Technology-Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI).

“The loss of income to thousands of families immediately translates into not being able to put food on the table,” said Dr. Parawan.

He said vulnerable families need financial support to afford nutritious diets – particularly for pregnant and lactating mothers and children up to the age of two.

Save the Children’s #ProtectAGeneration global appeal aims to provide financial support to families in crisis through cash and voucher assistance in over 30 countries around the world.

Atty. Muyot said the funds will also support distance learning and interactive learning activities for millions of children missing out on school due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We will provide guidance and resources to help parents and caregivers to support children’s learning,” he said, adding that “the key to our support will be how to maintain structure and routine, and how to keep children engaged in play and learning activities at home.”

Save the Children Philippines has developed mobile apps like i-Mulat that is downloadable in the Google Play Store, to give parents a wealth of suggested family learning activities for children 0 to 6 years old that they can do at home.

The i-Mulat app contains key messages and videos on how parents can support their children to achieve their developmental milestones. Parents can also log the activities they do with their children as well as observations on their child’s development in the app.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a crisis that goes beyond health systems, said Atty. Muyot.

“Economic recession and the socio-economic disruption accompanying lockdowns have already inflicted immense human suffering even in high-income countries with strong safety nets. The risks now facing vulnerable populations in poorer countries with high levels of poverty and weak safety nets are even more serious and much greater,” he said

Atty. Muyot is appealing to individuals and businesses to support #ProtectAGeneration through donations on https://donate.savethechildren.org.ph/campaign/covid-19#donatearea or by calling: Candice dela Cruz at 0929-754-3066 or supportercare.ph@savethechildren.org





CARD MRI continues services despite COVID-19

Press Release
April 7, 2020

SAN PABLO CITY – As the national and local government in the Philippines implemented necessary measures to control the spread of COVID-19, the livelihoods of MSMEs are critically distressed. Despite the disruption of the operations of CARD Mutually Reinforcing Institutions (CARD MRI), efforts are being exerted in order to continue providing financial and non-financial services to these MSMEs.

Upon the announcement of the enhanced community quarantine on March 16, 2020, CARD MRI announced “Walang Hulog” or the implementation of moratorium on loan payments of its clients and the suspension of all center activities to comply with social distancing until April 12, 2020.

“This decision will adversely affect our operations, but we must always go back to our core of existence: our MSME clients who we need to prioritize in these challenging times,” said CARD MRI Managing Director Flordeliza L. Sarmiento. She further added that the moratorium will allow clients to manage their finances better so that they can prioritize basic needs during the community quarantine.

Moreover, CARD Mutual Benefit Association, the microinsurance arm of CARD MRI, also suspended the collection of insurance payments. Claims, though, are still being processed at the provincial offices of CARD MBA nationwide. Its efficient strategy of settling claims with finality within 24 hours is still being observed where possible, enabling clients to continuously have access to a safety net.

CARD MRI persistently implements interventions to curtail the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. “Day after day, we think of ways on how we can keep on supporting our clients,” CARD MRI Founder and Chairman Emeritus Dr. Jaime Aristotle B. Alip said. “With a string of 23 institutions specializing in financial and community development services, we know that we can do more for the low-income sector despite the challenges imposed by physical limitations brought by the community quarantine,” he explained.

With the communities under lockdown and access to basic social services rendered limited, an integrated online hub was launched by CARD MRI as an efficient way to reach out to its clients. These online services include free medical consultation, and educational sessions on business. Moreover, CARD MRI also launched a pilot project on mobile palengke, and an online buy and sell group for its clients.


CARD MRI has long recognized health protection as a crucial factor in achieving development. Over the years, it has created meaningful partnerships with doctors, hospitals, and clinics who also have the heart to provide basic health services to the low-income sector. Since its regular medical missions were put on hold in compliance to the enhanced community quarantine, CARD MRI brought its health services online.

On March 31, CARD MRI doctors went live on a Facebook page called “CARD e-Doctor”. The initiative was made possible by the Microfinance and Health Protection (MaHP) program unit of CARD MRI. Through their Facebook page, CARD doctors respond to health-related inquiries through a live video or via private message. The CARD e-Doctor commenced its first consultation with a live discussion about COVID-19, its symptoms, and preventive measures to take. Free online consultations are held Mondays to Fridays, from 8 AM to 5 PM.

To complement this initiative, CARD MRI’s pharmacy, BotiCARD, is open to serve CARD clients and the general public with affordable and effective generic medicines. Hygienic products are also available in the pharmacy.


Undoubtedly, the livelihoods of CARD MRI microentrepreneurs are adversely affected by the outbreak. To support those in the line of food business, CARD MRI’s marketing arm, Mga Likha ni Inay (MLNI), spearheaded a mobile palengke to provide CARD members access to food necessities. Through the Palengke on Wheels, basic food supplies such as vegetables, poultry, and other foodstuff are bought in bulk from members (vendors and farmers) and are brought closer to communities under quarantine. Orders can be placed on its Facebook Page, Likha ni Inay Palengke on Wheels. The mobile palengke is currently being pilot-tested in San Pablo City, Laguna but is hoped to be made operational in other areas as MNLI learns from its initial experience in this initiative.

Last but not the least, CARD MRI also created an online community for its clients and members where they can continue their businesses despite restricted mobility due to the ECQ. CARD MRI’s newly launched Facebook group allows CARD clients to buy and sell their products. The group, which is searchable on Facebook as “CARD MRI Buy and Sell”, currently has more than 6,000 members, and closed more than 30 deals since its launch on March 29, 2020.

This Facebook group also paved the way for linkages between microentrepreneurs and the local governments who have been supplying communities with relief packages. For example, one particular CARD client from Panabo, Davao del Norte was tapped by the LGU to supply alamang to residents. Through this linkage, the microentrepreneur was able to secure income even during the ECQ. However, the restriction on movement threatens the supply of raw materials for the continuance of this opportunity.


The CARD-MRI Development Institute (CMDI), which offers formal education and trainings for microfinance clients, staff, and practitioners, is offering online modules for free during the quarantine period. Too, mechanisms have been put in place so that Senior High School and College students can enroll online in the comforts of their homes. Online classes will also be offered effective next school year.

CMDI also created an online community for CARD staff, clients, and members where they can discuss livelihood ideas. Dubbed as CMDI Kabuhayan Ideas Online, the group provides trivia, information, and educational videos that can help micro and small entrepreneurs in their business.

A blended approach

The enhanced community quarantine has placed physical limitations in delivering community development services. But these same limitations have sparked creativity and innovation among microfinance institutions like CARD MRI in continuously bringing its services to the low-income sector.

Being known as an institution that offers tailor-fitted products to MSMEs, CARD MRI gathered volunteer management and staff to conduct Kamustahan Sessions via phone calls and online messenger to have a deeper understanding of the situations faced by its more than 6.7 Million Clients. The reports gathered will serve as a baseline information for the institution to design responsive policies and products should national health emergencies happen again. CARD MRI believes that this information would be critical in further strengthening its digital initiatives.

“Our digitization journey started way back in 2016. We are now seeing the fruits of our labor. With our digital efforts paired with our adequate presence in the field, our support to and solidarity with our clients is maintained. We will not surrender, we will continue the fight, and I have high hopes that, together, we will win. The enormity of the challenges we are facing may tire us, but we will only rest, but never quit,” declared Dr. Alip.





ASEMCO relief
Acknowledging the sacrifices of health workers, the Almeria Seafarers Multi-Purpose Cooperative (ASEMCO) provided the Biliran Provincial Hospital with food packs. (Photo by Sharmaine Chelsea Morillo)

Biliran farmer organizations extend assistance amid COVID-19

April 7, 2020

NAVAL, Biliran – Regional Director Stephen Leonidas of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in Eastern Visayas commended three DAR-assisted cooperatives in this province for their efforts to help ease the effect of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic in their respective areas.

As everyone is directed to stay at home with the implementation of the community quarantine by the different local government units (LGUs) to contain the spread of COVID-19, three agrarian reform beneficiary organizations (ARBOs) felt the pressing needs of their members, particularly the elderly and the daily wage earners.

The Looc Cabucgayan Agrarian Reform Cooperative in Cabucgayan town through its chairman, Zacarias Leorag, distributed two kilos of Jaguar rice to each of their 117 members.

For the Lico Agrarian Reform Cooperative (LARCOOP) based in the capital town of Naval, relief assistance consisting of three-kilo rice, coffee, sugar, milk and meat were distributed to its members.

Aside from the members, chairperson Rebecca Payos said, LARCOOP also provided snacks and coffee to frontliners manning the provincial border checkpoint, as well as barangay checkpoints in Lico and PS Eamiguel villages.

LARCOOP Manager, Anamie Villegas Ibano, added that the members’ Interest on Capital and Patronage Refund (ICPR) were released early so the latter could use them at this point while we are facing this kind of crisis.

Meanwhile, the Almeria Seafarers Multi-Purpose Cooperative in the municipality of Almeria, which is also into catering service, through its manager Anita Corto, provided food packs for the health workers at the Biliran Provincial Hospital.

DAR Secretary John Castriciones appreciated the acts of generosity by the various ARBOs nationwide.

He described the farmers as the silent frontliners against COVID-19.

In his Facebook comment, Castriciones said, “Ito po ang kailangan nating gawin sa panahon na ito. Mabuhay po kayo and God bless po!”





46IB foils ambush of CNTs to COVID-19 frontliners in Calbiga, Samar

improvised explosive devices

April 7, 2020

CAMP LUKBAN, Catbalogan City, Samar – Four improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were discovered by the elements of the 46th Infantry (Peacemakers) Battalion (46IB), 8th Infantry Division (8ID), Philippine Army foiling the attempt of the CPP-NPA Terrorists (CNTs) to conduct an ambush against the government forces in the vicinity of Brgy. Hubasan, Calbiga, Samar on April 6, 2020.

An information was obtained from a concerned civilian that the CNTs are planning to conduct an ambush using the aforementioned IEDs targeting the troops of 46IB who are serving as frontliners in battling COVID-19 pandemic. The mines were placed along the only trail connecting barangays Hubasan and Binanggaran of same municipality.

The residents expressed their utmost gratitude to 46IB as the troops prevented the IEDs to explode which could have wounded, or worst, could have taken their lives just like what happened in Borongan, Eastern Samar.

Lieutenant Colonel Rhomel R. Langcauon, Commanding Officer, 46IB remarked, “We are thankful that a concerned citizen alerted our troops about the IEDs planted by the NPA. This is evidently laid to victimize frontliners as all our troops are conducting COVID-19 prevention efforts. This could have harmed or killed the civilians passing by the said trail.”

Colonel Camilo Z. Ligayo, Commander of 801st Infantry Brigade said, "We will continue to protect the people of Samar from the terroristic acts of the NPA such as the planting of IED during this Covid 19 crisis. We thank the people for their help and we call on them to unite against all forms of terrorism".

Major General Pio Q Dinoso III, Commander of 8ID, stated that, “We condemn, in the strongest terms possible, that despite the existing unilateral ceasefire and global COVID-19 pandemic crisis, the planting of IEDs here in Samar and recent attacks against uniformed personnel in Luzon and tribal leaders in Mindanao; the CNTs are consistently displaying barbaric acts, violating human rights and disregarding the safety of the civilians who might turn victims just like what they did in Borongan a few months ago.”

It may be recalled that four individuals were killed in an IED exploded by NPA in Borongan, Eastern Samar in December 13 last year. The fatalities were three civilians including an elderly woman, a van driver and another woman who expired in the hospital while the fourth fatality is a policeman. Wounded were 14 others including an infant and two other children.





DTI to enforce 30-day grace period for residential, commercial rent during ECQ

April 6, 2020

MANILA – The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) released Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 20-12, Series of 2020 on 4 April 2020 granting a 30-day grace period for residential rent as well as a similar grace period for Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) with their commercial rent during the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) period.

“To provide economic relief to Filipinos and MSMEs during the COVID-19 public health emergency, DTI is implementing these guidelines to ensure their survival during the ECQ, as well as to help brace them afterwards,” said Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez.

Following Republic Act (RA) No. 11469, or the “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act,” DTI will enforce a 30-day grace period for commercial rents that fall within the duration of ECQ to give respite to MSMEs that have temporarily ceased operations. These enterprises will also not incur interest, penalties, fees, and other charges under the grace period. Similarly, DTI will ensure that a minimum of 30 days grace period shall be granted for residential rent that fall due within the ECQ under the same terms.

Under the MC, the grace period will be determined as 30 calendar days following the last due date of the rent during the ECQ. Cumulative amount of rents that need to be paid within the ECQ must be amortized equally in the six months following the end of the said period. This can be added to the rent owed for succeeding months without interest, penalties, fees, and charges.

On the other hand, lessors are not obligated to refund residential and commercial rents already paid by lessees during the ECQ. However, lessors must grant a minimum of a 30-day grace period from the next due date of residential and commercial rents without interests and other penalties as well.

Likewise, the MC calls on lessors of MSMEs to extend their generosity, if possible, the following: total or partial waiving of commercial rents due during the ECQ; granting a reprieve or discounted amount of commercial rents due after the ECQ; opening renegotiation of the Lease Term Agreements with lessees; and using other ways to mitigate the impact of the ECQ for MSMEs.

More importantly, the trade chief emphasized that there should be no eviction for failure to pay residential or commercial rent due within a 30-day period after the lifting of the ECQ.

“No Filipinos should lose their residence during the ECQ period. Moreover, the importance of MSMEs in jumpstarting our economy once the ECQ has been lifted cannot be understated,” Sec Lopez said.

“Through these measures, we ensure that our fellow Filipinos have a future after the ECQ with homes that they can live in and through jobs and employment provided by our MSMEs,” Sec. Lopez added.

Complaints of violations of the MC can be brought to DTI in person or electronically by emailing the agency, either through the Fair Trade and Enforcement Bureau (FTEB) through FTEB@dti.gov.ph or with the regional offices. Lessors who violate these guidelines will need to answer the Notices of Violations (NOVs) issued by DTI.

As provided under RA 11469, lessors that are found guilty of refusing to provide the 30-day grace period to lessees shall be penalized with imprisonment of not less than two months or a fine of not less than P10,000, or both.





P1.855M grant awarded to 26 rebel surrenderees in Samar

Peace Towards Prosperity Initiative

April 2, 2020

CAMP LUKBAN, Catbalogan City, Samar – A total amount of P1.855M grant were awarded to 26 former rebels (FRs) who availed of the national government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) and the Province’s Local Social Integration Program (LSIP). The financial grant is a way of helping the FRs to return back to mainstream society as they live normal lives. The activity dubbed, “Peace Towards Prosperity Initiative”, was conducted in separate ceremonies held in Matuguinao, Paranas and Calbiga; all in Samar on March 30, 2020.

Said activities were attended by Major General Pio Q. Diñoso III, Commander of the Army’s 8th Infantry (STORMTROOPER) Division; Most Rev. Bishop Isabelo C. Abarquez, Diocese of Calbayog; Ms. Anita R. Taran, OIC, Provincial Administrator of Samar; Police Colonel Andre Dizon, Provincial Director of Samar Provincial Police Office; Mr. Judy Batulan, DILG Provincial Director; Hon. Aran D. Boller, Mayor of Matuguinao; Hon. Eunice U. Babalcon, Mayor of Paranas; Hon. Melchor F. Nacario, Mayor of Calbiga; and other military and local government officials.

Additional financial aid under the LSIP and E-CLIP programs will be awarded once the FRs completed the needed requirements.

Major General Diñoso III, in his remark, stated that “We are happy whenever one of your fellow rebels surrenders to the folds of the law. The Communist -Terrorist-Groups (CTGs) deceive and agitate members by injecting ideologies against the government. You are just victims of such deception.”

“Seryoso ang ating gobyerno, ang ating presidente, si governor, sila mayor, ang mga kapulisan at kasundaluhan para tulungan kayo. Ito ang magandang dulot ng pagtutulungan at pagkakaisa. Pakiusap lang namin sa inyo na ipaabot din sa inyong mga kasamahang patuloy na nasa kabundukan na handa ang ating gobyerno na tulungan kayong magbagong buhay.” Diñoso added.

A former rebel-beneficiary was very much thankful and stated, “Damu an amon pagpasalamat nga guin bubuligan kami san tinuod nga gobyerno kay buwa ngay-an an esplekar san NPA nga sira an nabulig san mga tawo. Ine ngay-an an tama – an aton kasundaluhan an nabulig. Sanglit kita nga mga nagsurender pagburublig kita para mabuligan an aton gobyerno nga magpanawagan san adto pa sa kabukiran nga lumugsad na liwat para sira makatagamtam san kaupayan.” (We are grateful to the legitimate government for helping us realize that the NPA’s claims of helping the people were all lies. The truth to the matter is – our soldiers are the true ones who help us. Let us then help our brothers who were led astray by the NPA to return to the government so that they too may experience prosperity and return to the mainstream society.)

The intensified collaborative efforts of the government in the enforcement of the Whole-of-Nation Approach amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, is a reaffirmation of its commitment to provide peaceful, resilient, sustainable and economically developed Eastern Visayas.





Duterte's “shoot them dead” order denounced by international human rights group

April 2, 2020

MANILA – The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) strongly condemns the shoot-to-kill order of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on April 1. “We are raising the alarm in the international community on President Duterte’s directive to kill unruly violators of the coronavirus quarantine. This pronouncement is a dangerous order that allows authorities to target and kill anyone in a public space. It is also a complete violation of the fundamental rights of Filipinos especially in this time of global pandemic,” says ICHRP chairperson Peter Murphy.

President Duterte addressed the whole nation hours after the incidents of unrest and people massing up for food and relief in the country’s capital. In his televised speech, his tirade of violent threats included “I will not hesitate. My orders are sa pulis pati military...na pagka ginulo at nagkaroon ng okasyon na lumaban at ang buhay ninyo ay nalagay sa alanganin – shoot them dead,” (I will not hesitate. My orders to the police and military…if they caused any disorder, and they fight back and your lives are on the line – shoot them dead).

The same day, 21 citizens were arrested for going out of their homes and demanding the relief promised by the national government. Residents of an urban community in the biggest city in Metro Manila staged a rally asking for food and aid amid the government’s lockdown to contain the coronavirus, which in turn has left millions of Filipinos jobless and hungry.

“Our support goes to the poor Filipinos whose only crime is to be hungry and demand what is rightfully theirs. The right to food and basic social services should be ensured especially in times like these,” ICHRP asserts. A video circulating in the social media shows citizens demanding for food being violently dispersed by authorities.

"Naintindihan ninyo? Patay. Eh kaysa mag-gulo kayo diyan, eh 'di ilibing ko na kayo (Do you understand? Dead. Instead of causing trouble, I'll send you to the grave),” Duterte added in his recorded address. Recently, the president was given special powers to distribute P200 billion (US$3.9 billion) to more than 18 million poor households. But after a week the aid remains unreleased.

“President Duterte’s criminal negligence coupled with brutal measures to address the pandemic is taking its toll on Filipinos. Millions of informal workers have been displaced and right abuses have been rampant all over the country,” says Murphy.

“The police and military who have been deployed to enforce social distancing are not trained for this task and have been the very perpetrators of human rights violations,” ICHRP underlines. The authorities have been detaining homeless people, putting curfew violators in cages and using torture methods to punish them, and even arresting citizens over “provoking” posts on social media.

Netizens showed their anger online over the president’s pronouncement to “shoot them dead” and called for his ouster. The #OustDuterte have been trending in the Philippines for two days now.

The World Health Organization states that “Measures that limit individual rights and civil liberties must be necessary, reasonable, proportional, equitable, non-discriminatory, and in full compliance with national and international laws.”





DOLE-8 to assist informal sector workers through TUPAD #BKBK

March 28, 2020

TACLOBAN CITY – In order to mitigate the economic impacts of Coronavirus Disease-2019 (COVID-19) global pandemic, the Department of Labor and Employment Regional Office VIII will be implementing emergency employment program for the workers in the informal sector.

Per Department Order No. 210 series of 2020 signed by Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III on 18 March 2020, qualified beneficiaries or those underemployed, self-employed and displaced marginalized workers who have lost their livelihood or earnings due to Enhanced Community Quarantine against COVID-19 may avail of the Tulong Panghanapbuhay para sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers #Barangay Ko/Bahay Ko (TUPAD #BKBK) Disinfection/Sanitation Project.

Under the TUPAD #BKBK, beneficiaries will work for a period of ten (10) days for the disinfection/sanitation of their houses/dwellings and immediate vicinity of their houses. Beneficiaries will receive wages equivalent to 100% of the prevailing highest minimum wage in Eastern Visayas, which is P325.00 per day.

Aside from the payment of wages, the package of assistance under TUPAD will also include enrolment of beneficiaries to group micro-insurance and conduct of Basic Orientation on Safety and Health thru dissemination of brochures. DOLE will likewise provide the cleaning solutions to be used in disinfecting and sanitizing their dwellings.

TUPAD #BKBK under D.O. 210 may be implemented by Regional Offices either through direct administration or through Accredited Co-Partner (ACP). Proponents/ACPs must prepare and submit Letter of Intent, TUPAD Work Program and Summary List of Beneficiaries.

DOLE-RO VIII was initially downloaded only P10million for the implementation of the program. Regional Director Yahya A. Centi during a meeting with senior officials of DOLE-RO VIII directed to implement the program the soonest possible time.

“Considering that most of our informal sector workers have lost their income now because of this COVID crisis, I urge everyone to do your part so that we will be able to deliver the needed assistance”, said Centi.

TUPAD is one of the flagship programs of DOLE which aims to contribute to poverty reduction and inclusive growth. It is a community based (municipality/barangay) package of assistance that provides temporary wage employment for the displaced workers, underemployed and self-employed workers.





Church group reiterates appeal to PH government: Listen to the UN, release prisoners now!

Press Release
March 28, 2020

QUEZON CITY – Church group National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) reiterated its call for the urgent release of political prisoners, those that are sick, with chronic or terminal disease, the elderly, pregnant and nursing mothers, low-risk offenders, and those that are due for parole or pardon, as advised by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN OHCHR) Michelle Bachelet on March 26. “Let’s take it from the UN. There is an urgent need to address the catastrophic risks in prisons by releasing prisoners, especially now that the country is confronting numerous challenges due to this pandemic,” Bishop Reuel Norman O. Marigza, NCCP General Secretary, said.

The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology has recorded 394% congestion rate in prisons in the country, which by itself poses grave, potential and unmanageable outbreaks.

“As the number of positive COVID-19 cases spike up, the most Christian thing to do is to leave no one behind. Don’t forget those in prison, especially human rights defenders facing trumped charges, who have staunchly worked for social justice and human rights. They need compassion, they need justice and they need protection. They should be released under humanitarian grounds,” the General Secretary said.

This is after UN OHCHR Michelle Bachelet called on the governments to take urgent action to ensure health and safety in prisons and places of detention. “In many countries, detention facilities are overcrowded, in some cases dangerously so. People are often held in unhygienic conditions and health services are inadequate or even non-existent. Physical distancing and self-isolation in such conditions are practically impossible,” Bachelet said.

“The government needs to quickly address the need to decongest detention facilities and prisons. We could start with the vulnerable groups – the sick and elderly, low-level prisoners, and political prisoners or those detained because of their political beliefs or by simply expressing dissent,” Bishop Marigza said.

“It is also deeply distressing that in a time of a public health crisis, authorities fixate on threats of imprisonment as punishment to disobedience. This does not only exacerbate the situation in our detention facilities, but also fails to address the urgent humanitarian needs of the people,” Bishop Marigza ended.

The National Council of Churches in the Philippines is the largest aggrupation of mainline Protestant and non-Roman Catholic churches in the country.





DTI, DA, LGUs to ensure Price Freeze during quarantine

Price Freeze during quarantine

March 26, 2020

QUEZON CITY – Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez and Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary William Dar said they are working closely with local government units (LGUs) to ensure the proper implementation of the price freeze on basic necessities.

The two officials made this assurance after they found many sellers in violation of the price freeze, as mandated in the Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) No. 2020-01 issued last 18 March 2020. Secretaries Dar and Lopez went around Farmers Market in Cubao on 26 March 2020 for a price inspection.

Following the tripartite release of the JMC by DA, DTI, and the Department of Health, the prices of all agricultural and manufactured basic goods, essential medicines and medical supplies, were frozen at their prevailing prices for sixty (60) days from the declaration of the State of Calamity on 16 March 2020, unless sooner lifted by the President.

Sec. Lopez explained that the marked-up prices were due to the challenges faced during the first few days of implementation of checkpoints in different LGUs. He assured, however, that this has already been addressed in the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging Infectious Diseases meetings.

“We are continuously coordinating at the local level, with the help of Interior Secretary Año, to ensure the harmonized implementation of the IATF guidelines on the unhampered movement of cargo. Improvements have been reported since Friday of last week and we expect the continuation of this for the following days,” said the trade chief.

He added, “After talking to sellers and market masters, we have learned that there are suppliers who sell these goods at the current retail price. In effect, sellers are forced to increase the prices to still gain some profit. This is why we are calling on traders and suppliers to sell goods at a reasonable price in consideration to our local sellers.”

Secretary Dar noted that farmgate prices for products such as chicken are already below the cost of production, so suppliers should not sell them at such high prices. To address this, DA coordinated with market masters to provide them a list of suppliers that are providing reasonable prices.

Additionally, Secretary Dar urged city chiefs of public markets to implement the Local Price Coordinating Council mechanism, which allows local enforcement units to strictly ensure the price freeze in their respective areas.

During the inspection of nearby supermarkets, such as Wellcome Farmers Plaza and Puregold Araneta, Secretary Lopez was glad to see that these establishments were in compliance with the price freeze. He and Secretary Dar also observed that these supermarkets had sufficient supply on their shelves.

“With the improvements in the unimpeded movement of cargo, we can also see the improvements in the grocery stocks of essential food and non-food products. That’s why we reiterate our call for people not to panic buy because we see that supplies are slowly being replenished,” Sec. Lopez said.





International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement appeals for 800 million Swiss francs to assist world’s most vulnerable people in fight against COVID-19

Press Release
March 26, 2020

GENEVA – The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement on Thursday launched a revised emergency appeal for 800 million Swiss francs (823 million US dollars) to help the world's most vulnerable communities halt the spread of COVID-19 and recover from its efforts.

While COVID-19 is already a global pandemic, it is still possible to reduce its spread and the number of lives lost by improving access to critical resources.

IFRC President Francesco Rocca said: “This pandemic is putting at risk entire health systems, and the situation will worsen in places where those are weak or inexistent. A strong community response is critical to stop the virus. COVID-19 affects everyone equally, but migrants and displaced people, those who are homeless, and those in disaster-prone areas are among those most exposed to infection, least able to access health care, and most impacted by loss of income. They must not be forgotten. We must strengthen the support to our Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers who are on the frontline of this response.”

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement consists of three parts: the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), and 192 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

- The IFRC is appealing for 550 million Swiss francs (566 million US dollars) to support National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in health care, prepositioning of goods, risk communication, lessons learned from global network of local responders, cash grants for families, and mitigating impacts of large outbreaks). Out of the 550 million Swiss francs, 150 million Swiss francs is for IFRC to support National Societies in need, while the remaining 400 million Swiss francs will be raised by National Societies domestically.

- The ICRC is appealing for 250 million Swiss francs (256 million US dollars) to respond in places of conflict and violence, to support medical facilities and places of detention, curb the spread among and ensure medical access for displaced people and detainees, and to support National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in their response.

ICRC President Peter Maurer said: “The international community must increase support now to the under-resourced communities crippled by conflict, or risk allowing another humanitarian catastrophe to unfold on top of the countless others war-torn communities have endured. Viruses know no borders; this is a global problem that will only be solved by global action.”

Work already being carried out by the Movement includes support to National Societies to increase their health care services, community engagement and pandemic preparedness activities for vulnerable populations. This includes the reinforcement of supplies in medical facilities, expanding sanitation and disease prevention programmes including in places of detention, and mitigating the socio-economic impact of the outbreak by ensuring communities maintain access to basic services. Support will also be provided to States to implement WHO guidelines to detect COVID-19 early, isolate and treat cases, and trace contacts.

Both organizations warn that stemming the pandemic’s rapid global spread requires a coordinated and society-wide approach, including funding and support across state and national levels. The impacts of COVID-19 will be felt everywhere, but the most vulnerable people are at especially high risk. Governments, individuals, communities, institutions and donors must work together at all levels to mitigate the health crisis’s devastating impacts.

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is the world’s largest humanitarian network. Its community-based volunteers and staff help the world’s most vulnerable people, including those living in countries with under-resourced health and social welfare systems; people recovering from recent disasters; migrants and displaced people; those in conflict zones and who face ongoing violence; people in urban slums; detainees; and people suffering from the socio-economic impact of COVID-19.





SB Corporation opens P1B loan facility for MSMEs affected by Covid-19 lockdown

March 24, 2020

MAKATI CITY – To support micro and small businesses affected and cushion the economic impact of the spread of Covid-19 virus in the country, the Small Business Corporation is setting up a P1 billion Enterprise Rehabilitation Financing facility under the Pondo sa Pagbabago at Pag-asenso (named Covid19 P3-ERF).

The facility will be implemented once the Community Quarantine declaration is lifted by the National Government and/or respective Local Government Units.

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez explained that the P3-ERF facility is part of the economic relief program of President Rodrigo Duterte for small businesses greatly affected and further marginalized by the Covid-19 virus epidemic.

The SB Corporation, an agency under the Department of Trade and Industry, said the ERF loan fund is open to micro and small enterprises with at least one year continuous operation prior to March 2020, and whose businesses suffered drastic reduction in sales during the ensuing epidemic.

Micro enterprises with asset size of not more than P3 million may borrow P10,000 up to P200,000 and small enterprises with asset size of not more than P10 million may borrow a higher loan amount but will not exceed P500,000.

The loan shall be used to help the enterprise stabilize or recover from its losses. Specifically, the following purposes are qualified: 1) Updating of loan amortizations for vehicle loans or other fixed asset loans of the business; 2) Inventory replacement for perishable stocks damaged; and 3) Working capital replacement to restart the business.

Interest rate shall be at 0.5% per month (discounted basis); and grace period on payments shall be given until such time that the economic crisis has abated.





Zumarraga CLOA distribution
The agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) show their Emancipation Patents (Eps) and Certificates of Land Ownership Award (CLOAs) after the distribution. With them in photo are Zumarraga Mayor Myrna Tan (standing, 4th from left) and Municipal Agrarian Reform Program Officer (MARPO) Evelinda Barbasa (standing, 3rd from left). (photo Engr. Jessie Iso)

DAR distributes CLOAs to Samar islanders

March 21, 2020

ZUMARRAGA, Samar – Eighteen landless farmers from this island-municipality in the province of Samar turned landowners as they received Emancipation Patents (EP) and Certificates of Land Ownership Award (CLOAs) from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) on March 12.

Zumarraga Mayor, Myrna Tan, handed the 24 land titles to the 18 agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) in a simple ceremony at the town’s Sangguniang Bayan Session Hall. She was assisted by Municipal Agrarian Reform Program Officer (MARPO) Evelinda Barbasa.

Barbasa disclosed that the EPs and CLOAs, distributed to the ARBs under the government’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), covered a combined area of 22.8012 hectares of corn lands and coco lands situated in the Barangays of Tubigan, Canwarak, Maputi, and Pangdan.

She added that the EP-CLOA distribution was part of a weeklong celebration in commemoration of the town’s 157th founding anniversary.





CARD implements one-month moratorium for clients

Press Release
March 21, 2020

SAN PABLO CITY – The financial institutions of CARD Mutually Reinforcing Institutions (CARD MRI) have suspended its microfinance operations from March 17 to April 12, 2020. This is in response to the recent declaration by the Philippine Government of an enhanced community quarantine due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

While the obligation for weekly loan payments are lifted until the resumption of its operations, CARD Main Bank Branches will remain open so that clients can perform transactions such as deposits and withdrawals. These bank branches will open at 9:00AM and close at the latest 3:00PM, as there are branches which are locally required to close earlier than 3:00PM. Likewise, bank clients can still transact through ATMS, Digital Cash Machines, and the konek2CARD app. Savings withdrawals can also be facilitated by konek2CARD agents of CARD Banking Group.

“This is our effort to show our sympathy and concern to our clients in these trying times,” said Dr. Jaime Aristotle B. Alip, CARD MRI Founder and Chairman Emeritus. “We understand that our clients would face liquidity problems and potential losses. It is through implementing moratorium that we can support them.”

Continuous Support

CARD MRI Managing Director Flordeliza Sarmiento also added that other essential services will still be provided. “COVID-19 is a serious health threat thus we know that this is the time when we are needed by our clients and staff the most. Our clinics and laboratory are still open for our clients and staff while our pharmacy, BotiCARD, will remain open to the general public,” she explained.

CARD Mutual Benefit Association, the insurance arm of CARD MRI, will also be on moratorium for its insurance contributions but will still process and disburse claims benefits. Clients may settle their claims in CARD MBA Provincial Offices and the main bank branches of CARD Bank, CARD SME Bank, and CARD MRI Rizal Bank.

CARD MRI is a group of institutions that aims to eradicate poverty through microfinance and other development-oriented programs. Of its member institutions, those offering the moratorium are CARD, Inc. (A Microfinance NGO), CARD Bank, CARD SME Bank, and CARD MRI Rizal Bank. CARD MRI has 6.7 Million clients, 19,027 staff, and 3,241 offices nationwide. Considered the largest in the microfinance industry, CARD MRI is an important catalyst in the country’s economy down to the community level, as it provides capital that enables poor households to engage in microenterprises as well as generating jobs directly and indirectly.

United as one

CARD MRI also joins other members of the two largest microfinance networks in the country, Alliance of Philippine Partners in Enterprise Development (APPEND, Inc.) and Microfinance Council, in the battle against COVID-19.

Insurance services and claims of these microfinance institutions (MFIs) remain uninterrupted.

Further, these MFIs will continue paying for the salaries of their more than 50,000 staff during this period of community quarantine.

True to their collective vision of ending poverty in the Philippines, the microfinance industry vows to fulfill its commitment to serve the most vulnerable population even in challenging times like the COVID-19 outbreak.





Release the sick, elderly, and “low-level” prisoners amid COVID19 crisis - NCCP

Press Release
March 20, 2020

METRO MANILA – Church group National Council of Churches in the Philippines supported the appeal of Kapatid, a group of families and relatives of political prisoners, to the government to release the sick, elderly and “low-level” prisoners. The NCCP said releasing them is a Christian and compassionate gesture in the midst of the pandemic especially since massive testing in the country is still not in place.

Bishop Reuel Norman O. Marigza, NCCP General Secretary, expressed grave concern for the prisoners amid the rising number of COVID 19 cases in the country. Bishop Marigza said, “Current measures in prisons are clearly insufficient. Without massive testing, the overcrowded prisons in the country is a health disaster waiting to happen. We cannot simply accept what the Bureau of Corrections is saying that prisons in the country are still free of cases of COVID 19 even though tests were not administered there. Before disaster strikes, set them free!”

According to Bureau of Corrections January statistics, its prison facilities are overcrowded by 310 percent as 49, 114 inmates occupy prisons that have a maximum capacity of 11, 981 persons. Justice Secretary Guevarra has already admitted that a single COVID-19 case inside could cause “calamitous effects”.

“Besides, the call for release is selective, only those who will definitely suffer like the sick and the elderly and of course, the prisoners of conscience who have been wrongfully imprisoned because of their political beliefs”, Bishop Marigza added.

The call for the release of prisoners came in the wake of Iran’s gesture to free thousands of its prisoners. The heavily congested prisons in the country are full of detainees that come from the poor, especially after the government’s campaign against illegal drugs.

The National Council of Churches in the Philippines is the largest aggrupation of mainline Protestant and non-Roman Catholic churches in the country.





Gravel road completed at barangays Buenavista, Ranera and Janipon

Buenavista-Janipon gravel road

March 18, 2020

CALBAYOG CITY – A gravel road amounting to P50 million was completed traversing three Barangays of Buenavista, Ranera and Janipon at San Jorge, Samar.

The only means of transportation for residents of said barangays would be by boat and usually, only one trip is scheduled going to and from Buenavista as Barangay Captain Raquel Duena, from Barangay Ranera narrated. From there, that’s the only time that they can travel on a paved road to San Jorge, Samar and other parts of the area. This in turn creates hardships for residents of the barangays in terms of health matters because of travel time and availability of boats.

Travel costs and time are also a problem of farmers to transport their harvested root crops, rice and vegetables grown from the barangay which is their means of income to the nearest marketplace in San Jorge.

Students also have a hard time going to school especially those attending their secondary education since the nearest school is situated in the Municipality of San Jorge. They would walk long hours to reach the school.

All these issues and worries are now gone as an opening road with a length of 2.86 kilometers with a width of 8 meters was developed. The scope of work includes two box culverts to preserve the creek that crosses through the said road. Riprap is also included on areas with steep slopes to prevent soil erosion and collapse of the structure.

Travel time through boat will consume almost 2 hours while using the gravel road will only take less than 1 hour to and from Barangay Buenavista to Janipon.

This road opening was drawn from the General Appropriations Act of 2018.





P46.97M Macalpe bridge in Caibiran town starts construction

Macalpe bridge construction

By DPWH-Biliran
March 18, 2020

NAVAL, Biliran – The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Biliran District Engineering Office (DEO) has started the construction of the P46.97M new permanent bridge at Sitio Macalpe in Brgy. Cabibihan, Caibiran, Biliran.

The site of the said project was previously an existing concrete paved road but was totally washed out during the onslaught of Tropical Storm (TS) Urduja on December 16, 2017.

David Adongay Jr., District Engineer said that the project is now in full swing under contract with L.M. Baltonado Construction.

“The project is now on-going in the preparation for the foundation works of the bridge,” revealed Adongay.

“The site is critical for sudden landslide specially during heavy rains, thus the contractor was instructed to fast track the project to avail the good weather condition,” he added.

According to Adongay, there is a need to construct for a new permanent bridge on the said section because a large volume of water crosses the roadway especially during rainy season.

The project involves the construction of a 4-lane bridge with a width of 13.4 meters with a total length of 20.0 meters or a total area of 291.43 square meters. This project has a target completion date on June 25, 2020.

When completed, this project will provide a structure that can accommodate big volume of rainwater, minimize vehicular accident as well as provide convenience in transporting agricultural and aquatic products to market centers.

This bridge is essential in going to the only Provincial Hospital and Port of the Province and some tourist sites within the island. It will serve more or less 3,000 travelers along Naval-Caibiran Cross Country Road (NCCR).

Presently, DPWH-Biliran DEO maintains a total of 35 national bridges within its jurisdiction with a total length of 1,250-linear meter of both asphalt and concrete surface. The completion of the new Macalpe Bridge would be an addition to this total length of bridges.





Save the Children Philippines urges health support for vulnerable groups who face more risks to COVID-19

COVID-19 vulnerable groups

Press Release
March 18, 2020

QUEZON CITY - Save the Children Philippines is calling on health and local government authorities to prioritize deprived and marginalized families and their children who are more at risk to Coronavirus acute respiratory disease 2019 (COVID-19) due to their lack of access to health services.

The call was made after President Duterte announced on Monday the implementation of Luzon-wide Enhanced Community Quarantine. The order imposes a strict home quarantine and suspension of mass transportation for one month from March 17 to April 17, 2020 to prevent further spread of COVID-19. There are now 142 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Philippines as of Wednesday (March 17, 2020) with 12 deaths.

The Child Rights-based group also raised concern on the first case of COVID-19 transmission to a 13-year-old girl in Quezon City. The girl, who is the country’s 135th confirmed case has no history of travel to other countries affected by COVID-19.

Atty. Alberto Muyot, Chief Executive Officer of Save the Children Philippines, said while COVID-19 threatens the general public, there are communities more vulnerable to suffer further socio-economic marginalization due to the impact of the viral disease that has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization.

There are more than 15 million (DOLE, 2018) parents and caregivers who rely heavily on the informal economy or whose earnings require them to use public transport, sell items and render services in crowded places or streets.

The elderly, particularly those with pre-existing conditions, along with children and adults with disabilities, indigenous people, and the urban poor are also vulnerable to the COVID-19 spread. The conditions of these vulnerable communities such as food insecurity, malnutrition and inadequate delivery of basic service compromise their resistance to diseases and predispose them further more serious health conditions.

“Children whose parents need to stay in high density areas to earn a living, or those living in hard to reach areas with no access to clean water are among the most vulnerable to the COVID-19,” said Atty. Muyot.

Children and families who belong to indigenous peoples are vulnerable to the COVID-19 spread due to their limited access to health and other social services, facilities, technologies, and do not have enough opportunities to cope also need urgent support from the local government units and health authorities.

“We call on the government to give these vulnerable groups priority assistance, and also engage them in decision-making processes for their response, recovery, and preparedness,” said Atty. Muyot.


Last updated: 08/04/2020