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Leverage digital technology to reduce risk of viral transmission -- GCash

March 18, 2020

Filipinos are now scrambling to keep their home supplies at bay, as the deadly novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has spread in various parts of the country, and a community quarantine has been ordered in certain areas of the archipelago.     In Metro Manila alone, some grocery stores have seen their shelves almost wiped out of stocks, as people stockpile their homes with food and other grocery items to prepare their families for more stringent quarantine measures.     This means that the exchange of paper money is faster than ever, and money is circulating from one hand to another without prejudice to whoever handled the banknotes before people and merchants ultimately keep them in their wallets or cash registers.     Paper money, according to various studies, can harbor the viruses and bacteria that they contract with for several days. This may include the deadly novel virus that has forced the world into a pandemic.     And in the Philippines, where cash is still king, the virus may potentially spread through the exchange of paper money, which circulates not only in one area but can go anywhere where payment is demanded.     Aside from practicing personal hygiene, the World Health Organization (WHO) has already encouraged everyone to use contactless payment solutions to avoid viral transmission via banknotes and coins.     Thus, it is high time for Filipinos to consider using frictionless payment methods such as mobile wallets. Through mobile apps, account holders may transact with a wide variety of merchants without physically touching paper money. They may also use their mobile phones to pay for bills, settle for government dues, or even support humanitarian efforts to combat the dreaded disease.     GCash, the leading mobile wallet in the Philippines, is encouraging Filipinos to adopt a more digital lifestyle, especially at times like these, when crises strike everyone the hardest.     “At this trying time, every one of us should adopt measures that will reduce our risk of contracting the virus from any surface — and that includes paper money. We at GCash believe that there is power in technology, and Filipinos could benefit from this, especially during emergencies,” GCash President Anthony Thomas said.     The digital economy helps lessen the risk of transmission for those who leverage it, as it limits the physical interaction between people and leverages new technologies to facilitate services. Transferring funds to loved ones in the provinces     For instance, a man who works in quarantined Metro Manila may send money to his loved ones in Bicol via GCash. He may either send the money to their GCash wallets or even transfer funds from his GCash account to their bank accounts via the Bank Transfer option in the GCash app.     The funds transferred may then be used by his family to purchase their everyday goods, pay for services, and even pay for their bills. No queues at payment centers     Speaking of paying bills, with social distancing protocols now in place, queuing at payment centers also increases the risk of spreading the virus.     By using the GCash Pay Bills service, anyone with a GCash account may settle their utility bills, credit card bills, cable and internet bills, insurance, real estate, and even government dues without going out of the comforts of their homes. Get things delivered     Likewise, instead of going to supply stores, GCash users may use their GCash wallets to shop online. Through its partnership with Lazada, which has the widest arrays of goods being sold, GCash users may opt to buy their grocery items or even daily necessities via their mobile phones. The items they purchased will then be delivered to their doorsteps, reducing their risk of contact to the virus. Pay with credit lines     But if it is really necessary to go outside and buy daily necessities from the grocery store, GCash users may also use their mobile wallets to purchase goods via the revolutionary Scan-to-Pay (STP) via QR or STP via Barcode payment systems, which are accepted in over 70,000 merchants in the country. They may either use their available balance or tap into GCredit, a credit facility embedded in the GCash app, to transact with grocery stories like Puregold. Savings in times of emergencies     GCash users with GSave savings accounts may also digitally cash out their money when emergencies arise. The money, when cashed out from the GSave account, directly goes into the GCash wallet balance, and instead of physically cashing the money out of ATMs, they may opt to use their digital wallets to transact with various merchants across the Philippines. Not the only risk reduction measure     These are just some of the services that Filipinos may benefit from during the global pandemic. But while frictionless payments reduce the risks of spreading the virus, everyone should still keep in mind that proper hygiene, as directed by the Department of Health, should be thoroughly and strictly practiced.     “We have to work together as a team — albeit following social distancing protocols — to defeat this almost invisible enemy. We at GCash are exploring more ways to help the government and the private sector in mitigating the further spread of COVID-19 in the country,” Thomas said.

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Valencia City under community quarantine

March 18, 2020

VALENCIA CITY, Bukidnon --Valencia City Mayor Azucena Huervas signed Executive Order No. 19 (EO 19) placing the entire city under community quarantine from 6 p.m. Monday, March 16-29, amid the threat of Corona Virus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).     This came after the mayor convened the members of Task Force Against COVID-19 for an emergency meeting with the doctors, medics, hospital administrators and medical directors in Valencia City.     “In view of limited resources of the government and private hospitals, we need to enforce rigid rules to restrict the movement of persons in order to control the rising number of Persons Under Monitoring (PUMs) and the upsurge of residents coming home from abroad or other parts of the country—especially those coming from places with recorded COVID-19 cases,” Huervas said.     EO 19 states that travelers are required to undergo health screening at designated “health checkpoints” manned by the Philippine National Police and Task Force COVID19 composite team in accordance with the protocols and guidelines of the Department of Health (DOH).     Prior to this declaration, Huervas ordered all public and private schools to suspend classes at all levels for two weeks from March 16 to 29. Hence, EO 19 cited that classes and all school activities shall remain suspended while ensuring that students stay at home.     The order further specified that students loitering in malls or crowded areas during school hours shall be sent home.     The curfew for unaccompanied minors—as stipulated in the City Children’s Welfare Code—that starts at 10:00 p.m. and ends at 4:00 a.m. shall be strictly implemented.     The city also urged religious leaders to temporarily suspend church service or worships involving mass gatherings, including fiesta celebrations.     In an interview, Huervas clarified that Valencia City is not under lockdown because business establishments shall remain open except recreation facilities and other entertainment and amusement sites.     Likewise, the movement of cargoes and goods to and from Valencia City shall be unhampered subject to proper screening at ‘health checkpoints’ through DOH protocols.     Huervas said there is a need to place the entire city under community quarantine to avert the spread of the virus, compel residents to stay at home and observe proper hygiene.     The mayor also urged the people to cooperate with the government and keep Valencia City free from COVID-19. (BGR/PIA10)

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#FightCOVID19: GCash users may now support frontline health workers and hospitals via fintech platform

March 18, 2020

GCash, the leading mobile wallet in the Philippines, encourages Filipinos to support the #FightCOVID19 campaign, a digital donation drive that aims to assist the frontline health workers and hospitals combat the dreaded novel coronavirus (COVID-19).     The donation drive, done via the GCash app, will provide GCash users with an avenue to support the ongoing collective initiative to mitigate the spread of the global pandemic in the country. By donating money via GCash, Filipinos no longer have to physically go to the offices of social groups or hospitals to support the fight against the deadly virus.     Proceeds of #FightCOVID19 will be equally divided among the seven non-government organization partners of GCash, namely: the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF), the Philippine Red Cross (PRC), World Vision, UP Medical Foundation, PGH Foundation, Inc., ABS-CBN Lingkod Kapamilya Foundation, and Ayala Foundation.     These organizations have been helping efforts to curb the transmission of the virus since day one. Aside from providing high-risk individuals with aid, they are also supporting health workers that are at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19 by providing them with necessary personal protective equipment such as face masks to prevent risks of contracting the virus.     “Our platform is more than just a mobile wallet. It is a conduit of good that we can use in times of great need. We are encouraging GCash users to support the donation drive to help our frontline health workers #FightCOVID19,” GCash President Anthony Thomas said.     To send support, GCash users simply have to click on the “Pay Bills” icon in their GCash apps, choose the “Others” tab, and click “FightCOVID19.” GCash users should enter their name and the amount that they are donating to confirm their donation.     #FightCOVID19 is part of GCash for Good, a corporate social responsibility (CSR) program that taps into the inner generosity of people to support good causes that benefit the society.     Aside from donating, GCash also encourages Filipinos to leverage financial technology (fintech) to reduce their risk of contracting COVID-19 from potentially contaminated paper money. GCash users may use their mobile wallets to purchase goods and services both online and offline, pay bills, and settle government dues, among others.

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Korean firm starts construction of Panguil Bay Bridge

March 16, 2020

    The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) issued the group a Notice to Proceed on Feb. 14, 2020 and civil works for the project officially started on February 28, 2020.     Joint venture contractor Namkwang-Kukdong-Gumgwang earlier advised DPWH of their readiness to start the detailed engineering, design, and construction with the mobilization of personnel and equipment on Friday, February 28, 2020.     “Hopefully the project will be completed before the end of 2022,” said National Economic & Development Authority Region X Director Mylah Faye B. Cariño. Mega Bridge Program     The Panguil Bay Bridge project is the first listed undertaking of DPWH’s Inter-island Linkage (Mega Bridge) Program which involves the construction of a series of short- and long-span bridges linking island provinces to eventually connect Mindanao and Visayas to Luzon via land travel.     DPWH Secretary Mark Villar said the moving P1.7-trillion plan involves the construction of 17 short- and long-span bridges with a total length of 175,650 meters to be funded through a mix of foreign loans and grants, public-private partnerships, and the General Appropriations Act (GAA), a law Congress passes annually which defines the annual expenditure program of the national government and all of its instrumentalities. First dibs     The Panguil Bay Bridge is the first project under the master plan.     Once completed, the Panguil Bay Bridge will be the country’s longest at 3.77 kilometers, some 1.57 kms longer than the 2.2-kilometer San Juanico Bridge that links Samar and Leyte.     DPWH Undersecretary Emil Sadain, project director in-charge of DPWH UPMO Operations and Technical Services, said it is envisioned to be a two-lane bridge which would connect Tangub City in Misamis Occidental and Tubod town in Lanao del Norte that would drastically reduce travel time between these two points from two-and-a-half hours to seven minutes.     It will also shorten trips from the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan to Tangub as well as the Zamboanga Peninsula Region.     Villar said bridges are key to developing the Philippine transport industry, as they are crucial in improving mobility and interconnectivity among adjacent cities and provinces.     Aside from spurring economic growth, bridges would also reduce the country’s estimated P3.5-billion daily productivity loss due to traffic.     ThepProject, to be financed through official development assistance from South Korea, broke ground November 27, 2018,     The $100.13-million loan for the project was obtained from the Export-Import Bank of Korea (KEXIM) in 2016 through a loan agreement with the Korean Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF). Cost overruns     The Panguil Bay Bridge Project was one of three bridges under the national government’s Build Build Build infrastructure program which incurred the highest cost overruns in the 2018 national budget due to high inflation and project changes, according to data released by the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda).     Neda’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) Portfolio Review 2018 report, total cost overruns—additional costs over and above the Investment Coordination Committee (ICC)-approved project cost—increased 264.02-percent to P24.79 billion in 2018, from P6.81 billion in 2017.     Inflation in 2018 averaged 5.2 percent with September and October posting the highest inflation rates of 6.7 percent in the year.     The change to the Panguil Bay Bridge Project and Integrated DRR was brought about by the increase in the length of approach roads and the width of the main bridge by a meter.     The scope of the project was also widened with an increase in the length of the pile foundations; borehole diameters; inclusion of a seismic design; and additional temporary facilities.     The changes increased the project cost of the Panguil Bay Bridge Project P2.52 billion (51.57 percent) to P7.38 billion from the ICC-approved cost of P4.86 billion.     Neda said the revised cost includes actual expenses for RoW [right-of-way] acquisition in Misamis Occidental and Lanao del Norte. Reallocation     The project also had to re-allocate US$9,093,000 from Contingencies to Civil Works and Detailed Engineering & Design (DED) loan categories, since the original loan allocation for civil works and DED amounting to US$86,038,000 was deemed insufficient to cover the US$125,519,000 actual bid price of the winning civil works contractor.     “These changes in scope involved costs which required the concurrence and approval of the funders so it resulted in delays since negotiations involve time but hopefully with the notice to proceed and start of civil works we can now proceed with less of these delays,” Cariño noted.     The Department of Finance earlier requested the Export-Import Bank of Korea’s Economic Development Fund (KEXIM-EDCF) approval for the re-allocation while assuring the bank the US$9,093,000 shortfall resulting from this would be financed by the Philippine Government from its counterpart funds.     KEXIM subsequently approved the request as well as the Contract Agreement and Notice of Disbursement Limit for Design-Build of the project.     The remaining US$30,388,000 for civil works and DED contract shall be sourced from the national government’s counterpart funds, which has already been covered by the ICC approval in July 2018 of the DPWH request for change in the aforementioned scope and 52 percent increase in project cost. (RMB)

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Fewer flights expected, but temporarily: CAAP

March 16, 2020

NORTHERN Mindanao airports with flights to and from Metro Manila will be expecting a significant decrease in passenger volume as the National Capital Region is set to implement the community quarantine ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte.     Ariel Paderan, spokesperson for the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) in the region, said on Friday they are anticipating the number of passengers to go down by as much as 50 percent amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) scare.     Paderan said Northern Mindanao's three airports—Laguindingan, Camiguin, and Ozamiz—average more than 20 flights daily.     Laguindingan Airport alone has about 6,000 passengers daily, said airport manager Job de Jesus.     Paderan said the decision to cancel flights will come from either the Civil Aeronautics Board or CAAP.     “The cancelation of flights will affect the revenue of the airport, as we will only be catering to flights to and from Davao, Zamboanga, Cebu, Clark and other areas once the lockdown is in effect,” he said in an interview on Friday.     Meanwhile, the Department of Health in Region 10 (DOH-10) said in a statement as of March 13, a total of 25 patients under investigation (PUIs) have been recorded from Jan. 22 in the region.     Of these cases, one has already died while being admitted to the state-run Northern Mindanao Medical Center, medical officials said Saturday.     Three others are still being treated for severe acute respiratory infection while the rest have been discharged after testing negative for the virus. (PNA)

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Massive disinfection in Oro underway

March 16, 2020

CAGAYAN de Oro City Mayor Oscar Moreno has ordered the disinfection of most public places in the city following the first occurrence of a COVID-19 death in Mindanao.     City health officer Lorraine Nery said the disinfection covers the City Hall complex, public markets, public terminals and port and places of worship.     All the 70 public elementary and 35 secondary schools located in the city were likewise disinfected Saturday as students would go back to school on a grade level basis starting Monday for their final examinations.     Business establishments such as SM CDO Downtown Premier and SM City Cagayan de Oro have likewise initiated their own jet spraying disinfections.     On Friday evening (March 13), a 54-year-old male COVID-19 patient from Pasig City with roots from Lanao del Sur died at the Northern Mindanao Medical Center (NMMC), the first in the island.     Department of Health (DOH) 10 director Adriano Suba-an said the body will be buried immediately according to Islamic rites but with strict sanitation procedures.     Suba-an said the remains were put in a totally disinfected and sealed body bag and grieving relatives must forego the traditional washing of the body prior to the burial.     Suba-an also noted that the wife of the deceased could not attend the burial rite because she herself must be isolated due to her proximity to the expired patient.     Suba-an further assured that all passengers of the Manila-Laguindingan flight that Patient 40 boarded prior to his hospital admission have been traced and now undergoing 14-day home quarantine.     With the death of Patient 40, NMMC now only has eight persons under investigation (PUIs) in its care.     Along this line, Suba-an reported that these patients are "doing well and merely awaiting the COVID-19 test results."     Suba-an reiterated that Patient 40 is not a local transmission in Cagayan de Oro but was only admitted here since NMMC is the primary medical facility in Region 10 to handle infectious cases.     In this regard, Moreno again asked the public to set aside indifferences and understand the situation of the DOH and NMMC health workers who are working round the clock.     "Their responsibilities extend beyond the boundaries of Cagayan de Oro. They need morale and compassion from us. They are our frontliners," he said.     The mayor said that aside from the health personnel at NMMC, there are also DOH nurses on thermal scan duties at the Cagayan de Oro port.     With this, Moreno expressed his gratitude to business establishments such as Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and Andreya which provide free coffee and breakfast to NMMC doctors and nurses, respectively.

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