Duterte files anti underage drinking act

Davao City 1st District Rep. Paolo Z. Duterte, along with Rep. Eric G. Yap, has filed House Bill No. 1753 which prohibits the access of unqualified individuals to alcohol beverages.

Known as the Anti-Underage Drinking Act, the bill prohibits those aged below 21 and those with physical and mental disabilities from purchasing or obtaining liquor and other alcoholic beverages.

First time violators, especially minors, will be brought to the Barangay Council for the Protection of Children (BCPC) for counseling.

Second time violators will be made to attend, together with their parents or guardian, two consecutive regular session of BCPC.

Third and subsequent offenders will be turned over to the Department of Social Welfare and Development for appropriate counselling.

Establishments who violate the law would also be fined P50,000 or imprisonment of not more than 3 months. Revocation of license to operate a business would also be imposed to frequent offenders.


Bong Go appeals to next administration to continue Malasakit Centers

Senator Christopher “Bong” Go appealed to whoever will be the country’s next leaders to build on the programs, initiatives and policies implemented by the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte so that they benefit more Filipinos in the future.

In an ambush interview after providing assistance to residents of the Island Garden City of Samal in Davao del Norte on Wednesday, March 30, Go urged the next administration to keep public services that aim to provide a comfortable life for all Filipinos, such as healthcare, as a top priority.

“So, ako pakiusap ko lang sa next president, bigyan niyo ng priority at tulungan ninyo ang ating healthcare services lalo na ‘yung mga mahihirap na walang malapitan,” said Go.

“Ngayon, itong Malasakit Center, batas na ito at pirmado ni Presidente Duterte at mandato ng Malasakit Centers Act ay maglagay ng Malasakit Center sa mga DOH-run (Department of Health) hospital, government hospital, basta sumunod lang sila sa criteria set by the law,” he added.

During his stint as Special Assistant to the President, Go opened the pioneering Malasakit Center in Cebu City in 2018 with the aim of expanding access to health care for particularly poor and financially incapacitated patients.

He then authored and sponsored the measure that became Republic Act No. 11463, otherwise known as the Malasakit Centers Act of 2019, upon winning a seat in the Senate. It was eventually signed into law by Duterte in 2019.

The Act mandates all DOH-run hospitals to establish their own Malasakit Center. Other public hospitals, including those run by local government units, may also open their own provided they meet a standard set of criteria to ensure the sustainability of its operations.

He also urged incoming leaders to keep expanding the number of Malasakit Centers across the country, saying that it is in the best interests of all Filipinos.

“Ngayon, ‘yon ang sasalo sa mga pasyente at ang pakiusap ko lang sa mga kasamahan ko sa gobyerno at sa susunod na administrasyon, kung makatulong itong proyekto o makatulong itong Malasakit Center, ipagpatuloy niyo lang ang pagsuporta dahil para naman ito sa Pilipino, tulong ito para sa mga Pilipino, sa mga mahihirap,” said Go.

Go, on the other hand, asked Filipinos to work with the country’s future leaders in order for them to do a good job of serving the people.

“Ang gobyerno ni Presidente Duterte ay para sa mga hopeless, sa mga helpless. Kaya ako ang pakiusap ko lang, tulungan natin at sa next administration magtulungan lang tayo para sa ikaayos at makakatulong sa mga mahihirap,” said the senator.

“Kung ano po ‘yung makakatulong sa mga mahihirap iyon po ang ipagpapatuloy kong isulong bilang isang senador… ipagpapatuloy ko ‘yung mga programang nakakatulong katulad ng Malasakit Center,” he added.

151 Malasakit Centers now operational, six in Region 2

As Bong Go lauds continuous efforts to streamline access to medical-related gov’t assistance

Senator Christopher “Bong” Go once again urged Filipinos in need of healthcare services to avail of the government’s medical assistance programs following the launch of two new Malasakit Centers in the Cagayan Valley Region.

Go noted that access to quality healthcare services remains an important challenge, especially in rural areas where costs are often a constraint. He welcomed the government’s continued efforts to provide a more streamlined way to request medical aid especially in remote areas.

“Masaya ako at sunud-sunod ang pagbubukas ng mga Malasakit Centers sa pinakamalalayo nating probinsya. Tiwala akong patuloy itong magiging malaking tulong sa mga kababayan natin, lalo na sa mga walang matakbuhan at maaasahan kundi ang gobyerno,” said Go.

“Dito niyo makikita ang puso ni Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte para sa mga mahihirap. Sinimulan namin ito dahil ayaw naming pinapahirapan sila. Binabalik lang ng gobyerno ang pera at serbisyo na dapat matanggap ng tao sa pamamagitan ng mabilis at maaasahang serbisyo na may malasakit,” he added.

Situated in the northernmost part of the country, the Cagayan Valley Region is known for its mountainous terrain, developing infrastructure and difficult weather which hinder access to quality healthcare for many far-flung communities. Health facilities are typically located in major cities, forcing many to travel long distances to obtain basic medical services.

To help simplify the process of availing medical assistance in the region, the government launched two new centers, one at the Batanes General Hospital in Basco town on March 1 and another at the Quirino Provincial Medical Center in Cabarroguis town the following day. These are the country’s 150th and 151st Malasakit Centers, respectively.

The other Malasakit Centers in the region are at the Cagayan Valley Medical Center in Tuguegarao City, Cagayan; Region II Trauma and Medical Center in Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya; Faustino N. Dy, Sr. Memorial Hospital in Ilagan City and Southern Isabela Medical Center in Santiago City, both in Isabela.

The Malasakit Center brings together the different government agencies that offer medical assistance under a standardized system. These agencies include the Department of Health, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, and Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.

Its main goal is to reduce costly hospital bills to the lowest amount possible by covering various patient services and expenses. If available, centers may also facilitate access to similar programs provided by other agencies, local government units, non-governmental organizations, and private institutions and individuals.

Since its introduction in 2018, the Malasakit Centers program has benefited over three million patients nationwide. It was institutionalized under Republic Act No. 11463, also known as the Malasakit Centers Act of 2019, which Go principally authored and sponsored in the Senate.

“The Malasakit Centers Act has proven to be a great help to our citizens needing medical services through a one-stop platform in government hospitals. We commend the initiative and work of Senator Bong Go in this regard as well as other significant pieces of legislation. These centers will be of great help in ensuring that our people remain healthy and resilient during these challenging times,” President Duterte remarked in his 2020 State of the Nation Address.

The number of Malasakit Centers in each region is as follows: Ilocos (5), Central Luzon (12); Calabarzon (11), Southwestern Tagalog Region or Mimaropa (7), Bicol (7),Western Visayas (9), Central Visayas (10), Eastern Visayas (10), Zamboanga Peninsula (7), Northern Mindanao (7), Davao (5), Soccsksargen (4), Caraga (6), Cordillera (6), Bangsamoro (7), and Metro Manila (31).

“I am proud to say na mayroon na tayong Malasakit Centers sa Batanes hanggang sa Jolo. Tutulungan kayo nito hanggang maging zero balance o wala na kayong babayaran sa ospital… Tuwing nagbubukas ako ng Malasakit Center, isa lang ang parati kong pinapaalala: unahin niyo ‘yung mga mahihirap, ‘yung helpless, hopeless at walang matakbuhan,” said Go.

IATF approves amended guidelines for Alert Level 1

The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Sunday, February 27, 2022, approved the amendments to the Guidelines on the Nationwide Implementation of Alert Level System for COVID-19 Response.

Below are some of the protocols to be observed under Alert Level 1. 

Well-fitted face masks shall be worn properly at all times, whether outdoors or in indoor private or public establishments, including in public transportation by land, air or sea, except when eating and drinking, participating in team and individual sports in venues where ventilation standards can be maintained, and practicing outdoor sports/exercise activities where physical distance can be maintained.

All private offices and workplaces, including public and private construction sites, may operate at full 100% capacity, consistent with national issuances on vaccination requirements for on-site work. However, they may continue to provide flexible and alternative work arrangements as deemed appropriate based on function or individual risk. 

Agencies and instrumentalities of the government shall likewise adhere to 100% on-site workforce. Off-site work shall be under such work arrangements subject to relevant rules and regulations issued by the Civil Service Commission and the Office of the President.

On the other hand, public transportation in areas under Alert Level 1 shall be at full seating capacity. For intrazonal and interzonal travels involving public land transportation between an area with a higher alert level classification and an area under Alert Level 1, the passenger capacity shall be that which has the lower passenger capacity rate between the point of origin and point of destination. For aviation, maritime and rail public transport operating in and out of Alert Levels 1 areas, the passenger capacity will be at 100%. The use of acrylic and/or plastic dividers in public transportation shall not be required. The use of the Safe, Swift and Smart Passage (S-PaSS) travel management system shall likewise not be required for interzonal travel to areas under Alert Level 1.

On contact tracing, the use of health declaration forms / paper-based contact tracing shall not be required for all the agencies and establishments under Alert Level 1. On the other hand, the use of digital contact tracing such as the StaySafe.PH application is optional for all the agencies and establishments.

On testing prioritization, testing protocols shall be implemented, consistent with national guidelines, for individuals who are unvaccinated or have higher exposure risk pursuant to IATF Resolution No. 148-B and No. 149, s. 2021.  In addition, testing using RT-PCR shall be recommended and prioritized for: Priority Groups A2 (persons above 60 years old) and A3 (persons with comorbidities) and Priority Group A1 or healthcare workers. Testing shall be optional for other groups not stated above. It shall not be recommended for asymptomatic close contacts unless symptoms will develop, and should immediately isolate regardless of test results. Instead, symptom monitoring is recommended. Should testing still be used, testing should be done at least 5 days from the day of last exposure.  Testing shall also not be recommended for screening asymptomatic individuals. Meanwhile, testing using antigen tests shall be recommended only for symptomatic individuals and in instances wherein RT-PCR is not available, consistent with previously issued guidelines.

The Hospital Infection Prevention and Control Committees (HIPCC) may implement testing protocols in health facilities for health workers and patients based on their assessment of risk and benefit.

On isolation and quarantine, updated quarantine protocols for incoming international travelers shall be consistent with IATF Resolution No. 160 A/B, and updated isolation and quarantine protocols for general public & healthcare workers and authorized sectors shall be consistent with DOH Dept Memo No. 2022-0013.

Under Alert Level 1, establishments are no longer required to set-up isolation facilities within the workplace.

On treatment, close contacts, asymptomatic confirmed cases and mild to moderate confirmed cases shall be managed at the primary care level, such as health centers, private clinics thru face to face or teleconsultation, while confirmed cases with severe and critical symptoms shall be managed in the appropriate health care facility.

In the case of reintegration, isolation can be discontinued upon completion of the recommended isolation period, provided that they do not have fever for at least 24 hours without the use of any antipyretic medications, and shall have improvement of respiratory signs and symptoms.

For the purpose of claiming sick leave, health benefits or other relevant processes wherein the proofs of COVID-19 management are necessary, a medical certification may suffice provided it should include the following minimum information: name of patient, severity of symptoms, diagnosis as probable or confirmed COVID-19, and date of end of quarantine and/or isolation period.

Meanwhile, individuals 18 years old and above will be required to present proof of full vaccination before participating in mass gatherings or entry into indoor establishments, such as but not limited to:

1. In-person religious gatherings; gatherings for necrological services, wakes, inurnment and funerals for those who died of causes other than COVID-19 and for the cremains of the COVID-19 deceased; 2. All indoor dine-in services of food preparation establishments such as kiosks, commissaries, restaurants and eateries. For outdoor or al fresco dining and take out channels, no proof of full vaccination is required; 3. All indoor personal care establishments such as barbershops, hair spas, hair salons, and nail spas, and those offering aesthetic/cosmetic services or procedures, make-up services, salons, spas, reflexology and other similar procedures including home service options; 4. Fitness studios, gyms and venues for exercise and sports; 5. All indoor cinemas or movie houses operating at full capacity; 6. Meetings, incentives, conferences, exhibition events and permitted venues for social events such as parties, wedding receptions, engagement parties, wedding anniversaries, debut and birthday parties, family reunions, and bridal or baby showers ; 7. Venues with live voice or wind-instrument performers and audiences such as in karaoke bars, clubs, concert halls and theaters; 8. Indoor ancillary establishments in hotels and other accommodation establishments; and 9. Venues for election-related events.

Proof of full vaccination shall be required before entry in the list of establishments identified under the principles of 3C’s strategy against COVID-19. Children ages 17 and below shall not be required to present proof of vaccination status.

Bong Go echoes Duterte’s call to eligible Filipinos to get their booster shots against COVID-19

Senator and Chair of the Senate Committee on Health Christopher “Bong” Go echoed President Rodrigo Duterte’s call to the public to get their booster shots once eligible as an additional protection against COVID-19.

In his Talk to the People address on February 21, the President advised those qualified to get boosted, citing a low rate of people receiving the additional shots.

“Magpa-booster dose na kayo para sa karagdagang proteksyon laban sa COVID-19 lalo na sa mga variant nito tulad ng Omicron,” Duterte said.

“Huwag kayong mangamba dahil ang ating bakuna ay pinag-aralang mabuti ng ating mga eksperto. Ito ay garantisadong dekalidad, ligtas, at higit sa lahat, epektibo,” he reassured.

Reiterating Duterte’s appeal, Go noted that based on available data, getting vaccinated and boosted have hugely reduced the risk of contracting severe cases of COVID-19.

“Hinihikayat ko po ang lahat na magpabakuna lalo na’t bukas na ang programa sa general population. Pwede na rin magpabooster ang mga qualified. Nasa datos naman na kung sino ang positibo at grabe ‘yung sintomas ay kadalasan sila ‘yung mga hindi pa bakunado,” Go pointed out.

The senator added that cooperation in the national vaccination program is also a way of helping healthcare workers and other frontliners who are toiling endlessly in the fight against the pandemic.

“Kaya ipakita natin ang malasakit sa ating mga frontliners at magpa-schedule na tayo sa pinakamalapit nating vaccination site. Huwag kayong matakot sa bakuna dahil ito ang tanging solusyon para unti-unti na tayong makabalik sa ating normal na pamumuhay,” he appealed.

According to the National Task Force Against COVID-19, as of February 21, over 62 million Filipinos have already received their second dose, which represents 69% of the targeted 90 million Filipinos. Meanwhile, around 9.7 million boosters have been administered.

Duterte also said that he is pleased that the number of daily COVID-19 cases in the Philippines has been steadily decreasing.

“Ang mga daily COVID cases natin, pababa nang pababa. (Health Secretary Francisco) Duque has declared that we have surpassed the worst of the Omicron variant,” the President remarked.

Duque reported that majority of the regions are now at minimal to low risk case classification for COVID-19. The Cordillera Administrative Region is still classified as a moderate-risk case, and Region XI has a moderate-risk ICU utilization rate. The rest of the regions have low-risk rates of healthcare utilization.

The health secretary also urged the public to get their booster doses to prevent further mutation and transmission of COVID-19.

Go then stressed that the fight against the pandemic is a national undertaking and Filipinos can contribute by being responsible citizens.

“Lagi natin alalahanin na hindi kaya ng gobyernong mag-isa ang laban kontra pandemya. Hindi rin kakayanin ng mga frontliners kung patuloy na dadami ang kailangang dalhin sa mga ospital. Preventing the spread of COVID-19 starts with us by being responsible citizens and following health and safety protocols,” said Go.

Finally, the senator reiterated his appeal to the public to remain vigilant and continue complying with the mandated health and safety protocols to curb the spread of the virus and keep the healthcare system afloat.

“Kaya let us remain vigilant at sumunod sa mga patakaran. Ugaliing magsuot ng mask, mag-social distancing, maghugas ng kamay, at kung hindi kailangang lumabas ay manatili na lang sa bahay upang maiwasan ang hawaan ng sakit. Magtulungan tayo para hindi bumagsak ang ating healthcare system habang binabalanse natin na pasiglahin muli ang ating ekonomiya,” he ended.