Your daily dose of updates from Pinoys in Taiwan and Philippines

Philippines considering to extend and expand community quarantine

The Philippines is crafting a stimulus package as it weighs extending a monthlong lockdown in the main island of Luzon to curb the coronavirus outbreak.

The government will prioritize the most affected 18 million households, according to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez. Companies will also receive assistance, he said on Tuesday.

“This planned stimulus package is already being crafted and will be responsive to the uncertainties of the situation,” Dominguez said in a statement, without elaborating. “At this point, nobody knows how bad this pandemic will get or how long it will last.”

Governments across the world are unveiling unprecedented fiscal stimulus as the global economy reels from the coronavirus pandemic, with lockdowns spreading to countries like India and South Africa. In the Philippines, central bank Governor Benjamin Diokno has warned of a recession this year.

The Philippines on Tuesday reported 538 new virus cases – the highest daily jump in the number of infections – bringing the total to 2,084, including 88 deaths.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the government has yet to decide if the enhanced community quarantine set to end on April 12 will be terminated, extended or expanded to include more areas. The Department of Health will set the parameters of the decision, Nograles said.

“In this discussion, science is in charge,” Nograles said in a televised speech on Tuesday, rejecting rumors that a decision to extend the quarantine by 60 days has been made.

The government is looking into converting passenger ships, hotels, a convention center and a sports complex into quarantine facilities. Food and financial assistance for poor households will be released in the coming days.

The Agriculture Department will import 300,000 metric tons of rice to ensure sufficient supply, and may buy the same volume again for contingency, Nograles said. (Bloomberg Report)


Taiwan to donate 10million surgical face mask to COVID-19 severely hit countries

President Tsai Ing-wen announced today (April 1) that Taiwan will donate of 10 million masks to medical personnels in severely affected countries due to COVID-19.

This will actively strengthen cooperation with countries in epidemic prevention according to the president.

President Tsai delivered a speech on the prevention and response to coronavirus in the presidential office this morning.

Taiwan's daily surgical mask output has hit 13 million, the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) announced, in a report by CNA.

From April 9, residents will have access to nine masks for adults every 14 days, up from three per week at present, while the quota for children's masks will remain at 10 every two weeks

Chinese worker seen rubbing his shoes on face masks for export, draws anger to netizens

While the world is busy battling with the coronavirus pandemic, a video surfaced posted in twitter by a Chinese coronavirus vlogger on Monday, (March 30) shows how a Chinese factory worker rubbed his shoes on surgical masks bound for export.

In the video, the Chinese worker can be seen soiling the facemask meant for foreign clients by grabbing a handful of surgical mask and rubbing it on his shoe.

"Chinese factory worker runs his shoes on the masks asking the camera man if this is good enough. Are these the masks for export? Can we trust China to do the West's manufacturing?",
the Chinese vlogger from Wuhan who named himself as Harry Chen PhD said on his tweet.

Chen, who is popular for posting insider videos of the outbreak in Wuhan, said that the video was originally posted in Douyin, the Tiktok version of the country,  but was immediately deleted in the server by government minders.

Recently, a number of reports have surfaced alleging that the test kits, face masks and other medical supplies donated and sold by China are defective. It is also shifting the blame to the U.S. military for bringing the virus in their country.

Every coronavirus patient in Taiwan carry a cost of NT$2.1 million: Health minister

Every COVID-19 patient carry a social cost of NT$2.1 million according to Taiwan Health and Welfare Minister Chen Shih-chung, Taiwan News reported.

The health minister used the calculation about costs to call on individuals who had to stay at home to shoulder their social responsibility and do not violate the quarantine measure.

One patient could infect 10 others, who could pass on the virus to another 100 people, everybody needed to exert the utmost vigilance, Chen said. 

The minister described himself as a small screw in the system, with each member of the public being a screw. Only when all of them were tightened, would society be strong enough to face down the epidemic, according to Chen.

Taiwan recently reported 322 coronavirus cases, including five deaths and 39 people who had recovered and left the hospital.


Taiwan to punish April Fools' pranks about coronavirus, jail time and up to NT$3-million

Taiwan told people not to make April Fools' Day pranks related to coronavirus, with some threatening jail time as they seek to prevent the spread of rumors which could put lives at risk.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen took to Facebook to tell people not to prank about the virus, adding that anyone spreading rumors or false information could face up to three years in jail and/or a fine of up to NT$3 million.

With people relying on the internet and media for vital information about coronavirus, there are fears that jokes could fan the spread of misinformation.

Tech giant Google, which is famous for its annual spoofs, has canceled the tradition because of the pandemic which has killed about 40,000 people worldwide, in a report by Reuters.

Taiwan military is prepared for any attack from China, says defense minister

Taiwanese defence ministry official Chang Guan-chung said that Taiwan's military is well prepared in the event of any attack from Beijing during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“At the height of outbreak of the pandemic worldwide, if the Chinese Communists attempted to make any military adventure leading to regional conflict, they would be condemned by the world, and regardless of what would happen, we are all ready and have made the best preparation for this,” said Taiwan’s vice defence minister Chang Guan-chung.

The defense minister was speaking during a legislative session when lawmakers asked him how the defence ministry viewed recent activities by mainland China and the United States in and around the Taiwan Strait, in a report by SCMP.

Taiwan’s air force scrambled fighter jets to shadow, intercept and disperse the PLA warplanes through radio warnings during each approach by the mainland’s planes, according to the ministry.

The US sends two B-52 bombers on southbound flights off Taiwan’s east coast, the military said. The US Navy also had live-fire missile tests in the Philippine Sea.

“The public can rest assured of our ability to uphold national security,” Chang stressed out.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump signs Taipei Act to support Taiwan’s international relations which China expresses its strong indignation and firmly opposes the bill.


United States COVID-19 cases reached more than 181,000 and overtakes China in death toll

The number of coronavirus deaths in the United States surpassed China's reported death toll, according to Johns Hopkins University. Over 3,400 people have died in the United States. About 3,300 have died in China, where the outbreak originated.

That means the US now has the third highest death toll after Italy and Spain, and the highest number of coronavirus cases in the world with more than 181,000

Americans have seen their country hurtle into a war-like response that few could have envisioned: Hospital tents in Central Park and Navy hospital ships docked in New York and Los Angeles.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said there have been 1,550 deaths in his state, the U.S. epicenter of the virus outbreak that has now seen over 75,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases. Cuomo said the virus is more powerful and more dangerous than we expected. 

"We're still going up the mountain," he said. "The main battle is on the top of the mountain," said by the Governor to CBS News.

Further restrictions on movement are being considered in the US to curb the spread of the virus, with the country now reporting twice the number of cases as China where the outbreak began late last year.

Taiwanese COVID-19 survivors: Stay at home, your cooperation could save lives

Mai Wen-ta (麥文達), 85, and Mai Chia-shuo (麥家碩), 49, are among COVID-19 survivors who spent two months in quarantine on the Diamond Princess cruise ship and they are getting frustrated to those who violates the quarantine measure.

They are father and son who quarantine for almost 2 months at the Diamond Princess followed by self-isolation at home in Kaohsiung. Their message: Stay at home — your cooperation could save lives.

Both father and son were diagnosed with COVID-19 — on Feb. 13 and Feb. 17 respectively — and were treated at Japanese hospitals.

After they were cleared of the virus, the pair returned to Taiwan on March 10, where they underwent another 14 days of self-health management to ensure that they posed no risk to the community.

“Stay at home to protect yourself and protect others — that is the best thing you can do,” said the elder Mai.

His message probably to those Taiwanese who are currently in home quarantine, but the wide picture is that his message is applicable for everyone around the globe.

Those who violate the quarantine measure of Taiwan are subject for a penalty ranging from NT$100,000 up to NT$1-million.


Taiwan requires all commuters to wear face mask in all public transportation

The Central Epidemic Epidemic Command Center announced the social distance principle for epidemic prevention and of them is to require commuters to wear face mask on public transport.

It is recommended that the public maintain an appropriate social distance, based on 1 meter outdoors and 1.5 meters indoors. If the distance cannot be maintained, such as in a public transport, people are advised to wear masks.

Health minister Chen Shih-chung admits that this is not possible on MRT trains or public buses.l specially on peak hours. Chen says in situations like that, commuters should wear masks to protect themselves.

He adds that the government is not looking to punish people who violate social distancing principles, but rather hopes to get people in the habit of keeping a distance from each other.

The Transportation ministry announced that from April 1st, all public transportation, including Taiwan Railway, High-speed Railway, and highway passenger-operated passenger stations, passengers must wear masks to enter the station, and their body temperature must be measured.

Wearing of fave mask also include 1,298 post offices, service areas of highway systems including expressways, and transfer stations for highway passenger transport, they also need to take body temperature and wear masks.


SMC donates P500m worth of PPE for PH fronliners in fight of COVID-19

After donating alcohol and nutribuns, San Miguel Corporation (SMC) now steps up to purchase PPE's worth of P500 million for the frontline health workers battling the coronavirus pandemic.

The giant firm is knocking its global network of suppliers to buy the half a billion worth of PPEs.

“It’s very crucial that we get more PPE – protective masks, gloves, surgical gowns, among others – out there as fast as we can. We are hoping to fill the gap and continue supporting our government in whatever way we can,” said SMC president and COO Ramon S. Ang on Monday.

Earlier, SMC has donated over 100,000 liters of ethyl alcohol in the national and local government level.

At the same time, it has also started giving out nutribun-inspired breads and other food donations amounting to over P100 million to severely affected families due to COVID-19.

Man from New Taipei penalized for violating quarantine, go to a date with girlfriend

A 25-year old man from New Taipei has been fined NT$400,000 for breaching his home quarantine twice, he came from overseas according to a cosolidated report from Taiwan News.

The man violates the home quarantine twice, once for exercising in a park and again for going out to eat at a hot pot restaurant for five hours with his girlfriend.

The man surnamed Chen rented a luxury home in New Taipei City's Banqiao District and went abroad with friends in early March. After returning from overseas, Chen was told to undergo a standard home quarantine of 14 days from March 20 to April 5. 

However, only five days into his quarantine, on March 25 of 5pm, the man went to a nearby riverside park to exercise for about four hours and on March 28 of 6pm he ride his scooter and eat in a hotpot with girlfriend.

Police wish to remind the public that those who have been told to undergo home quarantine must stay inside their houses the full 14 days. Violators can be fined NT$100,000 up to NT$1-million.


Philippines adds 538 new COVID-19 patients, total jumps to 2,084 cases

The Department of Health on March 31 announced 538 new cases of COVID-19 bringing the total number of cases in the country to 2,084.

Today's record also notes 10 new deaths leading the death toll to 88 and 7 recovered patients for a total of 49 recoveries.

The department adds that a surge in daily record will be more expected because the  Philippine Lung Center will also be accommodating COVID-19 testing and many other testing laboratories will soon be opened.

The DOH also warns everyone not to buy COVID-19 test kits spread online for the testing must be done in the designated hospitals.

Taiwan confirms 16 more cases of COVID-19, total at 322

Taiwan reported 16 new infections of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in which 14 were imported and 2 were domestic, bringing the country's total to 322 on Tuesday (March 31).

Health Minister and CECC head Chen Shih-chung announced the two local cases were a man in his 70s (the 307th case) and a male in his 20s (the 322nd case). Neither of whom had traveled abroad, but the 307th case did attend a dinner party with the 122nd case, who had traveled to Turkey.

On March 25, the 307th case sought medical attention after starting to feel chest tightness, muscle aches, and other symptoms, upon admission to the hospital, he was diagnosed with pneumonia and tested for the disease, he was officially confirmed to have coronavirus on Tuesday and 46 people that recently came in contact with him have been notified.

The 322nd case had a fever, cough, and general fatigue on March 26, when he went to a clinic for treatment. Because the symptoms continued unabated, he checked into a hospital on March 29, when he was diagnosed with pneumonia.

According to the CECC, cases 257, 258, 300, and 315 all attended the same school in the UK and the 315th case came in contact with the 258th and 300th case before returning to Taiwan.

Police arrested 4 people selling overpriced alcohol, includes government employee

Four were arrested including a government employee and a village watchman on Sunday, March 29, for allegedly selling overpriced ethyl alcohol in Barangay Villamonte in Bacolod City.

Captured individuals were Mary Grace Alojipan, 43, a government employee of Pontevedra town; village watchman Janice Fernandez, 48; George Chua, 55, all from Barangay Poblacion 1 in Pontevedra and; Ricardo Uy, 52, of Barangay 17 in Bacolod City.

Police Chief Master Sergeant Ramiro Gocotano, officer-in-charge of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG)-Bacolod, said they initiated a transaction to Alojipan  to buy 25 containers of alcohol after a tip was given saying that she was selling overpriced alcohol online.

The suspects allegedly sold 18-liter containers of alcohol at P3,900 each but based on the suggested retail price from the Department of Trade and Industry, a container of the disinfectant should only cost P2,673, at P148.50 per liter.

At the end of the operation, the authorities recovered the boodle money and a total of 49 containers of ethyl alcohol worth P130,000.

Textile companies in Taiwan modified porduction lines to produce protective suits and gears

Several textile companies in Taiwan had modified their production lines and ramp up output to meet demands of personal protective equipment (PPE) and face masks to combat COVID-19 pandemic.

The modification of production lines aim to help the government to its counter measure against COVID-19 and output is ramping up to meet high demands.

The companies that have stepped up to the challenge is a "national team" six manufacturers, which are producing protective hospital gowns that have P3 particulate filters, in a report by CNA.

Taiwanese textile manufacturer  Makalot Industrial, Eclat Textile, Kang Na Hsiung Enterprise and four others answer the call for such demand.

Makalot Industrial will lead the other domestic companies in producing special protective gowns for people on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19. (CNA photo)

China lifts restriction on ASE-SPIL merger, can now boost closer cooperation

The Anti-Monopoly Bureau in China has lifted its restrictive conditions on the merger of ASE Technology Holding by Advanced Semiconductor Engineering (ASE) and Siliconware Precision Industries (SPIL), announced by ASE.

The lifted restrictive terms for ASE and SPIL are to maintain their respective independent management, accounting, personnel, pricing, sales, capacity and procurement systems within a specified period of time.

Now that the mentioned restrictions are removed, ASE and SPIL are expected to enter closer cooperation significantly further boosting the synergy and R&D momentum of ASE Technology, according to industry sources.

The notice came from the Mainland China Market Supervision and Administration Bureau's Antimonopoly Bureau on March 25, 2020.

Reports says many wire-bonded packaging orders have returned to their plants in Taiwan thanks to the country's strong performance in battling the coronavirus.

According to the 2019 ranking, ASE is the world's number one company in the semiconductor packaging and test market and SPIL is fourth. 


Study finds Earth's ozone layer is healing with a huge reduction of damaging chemicals

A hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica is healing and in turn reversing changes it caused to the flow of winds over the southern hemisphere, a study discovers.

Researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder say this is due in part to a ban on ozone depleting substances (ODS) in the 1980s. The biggest impact can be seen in the southern hemisphere jet steam - it had been moving further south due to ozone depletion, but that appears to be reversing.

Antara Banerjee, lead author, says this is likely only a temporary change due to the impact of rising carbon dioxide levels and more ODS coming from China.

Before 2000 the mid-latitude jet stream had been gradually shifting towards the South Pole and another hurricane-causing jet stream was getting wider.

This was changing rainfall patterns and ocean currents in the southern hemisphere and causing countries like Australia to suffer severe drought.

Researchers used a range of computer simulations to show the jet stream stopped moving south at the same time as the ozone hole began healing. There has also been a surge in ozone-depleting chemicals coming from industrial regions of China, the team confirmed.

'We term this a "pause" because the poleward circulation trends might resume, stay flat, or reverse,' says Banerjee.

'It's the tug of war between the opposing effects of ozone recovery and rising greenhouse gases that will determine future trends'

She said the biggest discovery from their study was the proof that a global protocol like the one in Montreal that banned ODS can pause or reverse environmental harm.  


Anti-flu drug from Japan "very promising" in the treatment of COVID-19 patients: DOH

The Philippines is looking to allocate a Japanese anti-flu medication  into the country as it appears to be "very promising" for treating coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patients according to the Department of Health.

The drug is known as Avigan or "favipiravir" which is made by Japanese conglomerate Fujifilm Toyama Chemical, the same company known for its cameras.

"Very promising po siya, mukha po talaga siyang sa ngayon sa mga anti-viral ay ito po ang parang medyo directed po ang treatment towards talagang sa COVID-19," Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo.

The Japanese government is already looking to officially approve Avigan as a treatment for COVID-19 once clinical trials conclude.

Trials were done with 340 patients in the Chinese cities of Wuhan and Shenzhen found that favipiravir was “clearly effective in treatment” of COVID-19.

In addition, X-rays confirmed improvements in lung condition in about 91% of the patients who were treated with favipiravir, compared to 62% or those without the drug.

Fujifilm also makes medical equipment, anti-aging skincare, hair products—and now a potential coronavirus treatment.


Social distancing is the best key in limiting spread of COVID-19: Public health expert

National Taiwan University (NTU) College of Public Health dean Chan Chang-chuan said People need to keep a social distance of at least 2m, as the college presented its seventh weekly report on COVID-19 at a morning news conference.

Public health expert yesterday warned that too many people are meeting in small groups in coffee shops and restaurants without keeping a proper distance from one another and he urged the government to loosen the criteria for testing young Taiwanese returning from abroad for COVID-19.

He saw many young people in coffee shops and restaurants over the weekend, which made him “very concerned,” which is why he is urging everyone to avoid such gatherings, and if they are necessary, participants should remain at least 2m apart, he said.

College vice dean Tony Chen said the global outbreak shows that it is a “social virus” that spreads rapidly among people through social activities, and based on global statistics from the past few days.

However, Chan said that the public needs to remember that the common enemy is the virus, not infected people or those under quarantine and people who have direct contact with them, such as healthcare workers.

Google donates a total of $800 million to health organizations to combat COVID-19

Google on Friday announced an $800 million pledge to support businesses and health organizations fighting the coronavirus crisis.

CEO Sundar Pichai said in a blog, the tech company will give the World Health Organization and global government agencies a total of $250 million in ad grants  up from the $25 million it announced a few weeks ago to share information on how to battle the spread of the virus.

Facebook has offered free ad credits to the WHO and other institutions to provide accurate information about the coronavirus, but the WHO has officially placed any ads on Facebook yet. 

The organization is working with Facebook in other capacities, including the company's Coronavirus Information Center and a health alert account on WhatsApp launched last week.

Google is also working with one of its suppliers, Magid Glove & Safety, to produce up to 3 million masks in the coming weeks that it will donate to the CDC foundation.

Taiwan residents may buy 9 face mask under the new rationing system starting April

Taiwan's mask rationing system still in effect as significant changes will apply by mid April with more easier access to surgical mask, announced by the Central Epidemic Control Center (CECC).

Residents will have access to nine (9) masks for adults and 10 for children every 14 days am improvement from three per week at present starting April 9, health Minister Chen Shih-chung said to the press.

Consumers will be able to buy all nine adult masks or all 10 children's masks in one purchase. The rationing system still able to record all purchase.

Increased production of the surgical masks made it possible to add more mask as demands still surging.

The masks will still be available at designated drugstores and pharmacies at a cost of NT$5 per mask by presenting a resident NHI card. (CNA photo)


Taiwan flight crews required to wear protective gear: CECC

CNA Photo

All flight crews will be provided with protective gear from April 1 to combat the COVID-19 coronavirus disease, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said Saturday.

The crews will have to wear surgical masks, goggles, protective clothing and gloves -- the same equipment given to medical personnel -- according to Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the CECC.

Chen said the CECC will also come up with guidelines for passengers, who will be punished if they break the rules.

Currently, passengers can bring their own protective gear, including alcohol hand sanitizers of no more than 100 milliliters, the CECC said, cautioning that they cannot change seats without notifying the flight attendants.

Coronavirus controls for flight crews have raised attention as there have already been cabin crew and pilots of Taiwanese airlines who have contracted the disease.

The Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) announced the previous day that flight crews working on long-haul passenger flights that require them to enter a foreign country to rest will be subject to five days of home quarantine after returning to Taiwan, while the home quarantine period for cargo flights will be three days.

Prior to the announcement, flight crews of domestic airlines were exempt from the requirement that all people entering Taiwan from abroad were required to quarantine themselves at home for 14 days to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. (By Lee Hsin-Yin/CNA)


Philippines' COVID-19 cases swell to 1,546; death toll climbs to 78

The Department of Health (DOH) announced 128 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday (March 30), jumping to 1, 546 total number of infections in the Philippines.

It was reported that there were seven additional deaths wrapping today's fatalities to 78 while there were no new recoveries noted thus remaining the number of 42 recovered patients.

The DOH explained that the surge in COVID-19 cases this month is due to the country’s increased of testing capacity led by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) and bolstered by several sub-national laboratories that recently became operational.

The RITM is capable of conducting 900 to 1,000 tests each day and the sub-national laboratories, which received certification last week, can do 80 to 160 tests daily.

Earlier on Monday, the Food and Drug Administration also announced the approval of five rapid test kits that can detect SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Taiwan's COVID-19 cases now climbs to 306 with five deaths

Taiwan's Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) on Monday (March 30) announced eight new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and two deaths, bringing the total to 306 infections and five fatalities.

According to Health Minister and CECC head Chen Shih-chung, the seven new imported cases included three women and four men, ranging in age from 20 to 70. 

The countries visited by the imported cases includes UK, U.S., Philippines, and Egypt and five of the imported cases are now considered part of cluster infections.

The sole local case was a boy under the age of 10 (299th case), who was in the same family as the 269th case. On March 26, he began to develop a fever, he was examined by physicians on March 27, and was diagnosed as part of a family cluster on March 30.

12 Filipino doctors have died fighting against COVID-19 in the line of duty

According to The Philippine Medical Association on Sunday, 12 Filipino doctors have died fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chair of the association commission on legislation, Dr. Oscar Tinio said, “We still have some other patients confined and fighting the illness at this time. Hopefully, we don’t add more to the list of deaths among our practitioners, our physicians." 

Tinio said over five percent of the country’s health workers are possibly on quarantine due to the nature of their work in directly dealing with the disease.

The physician also disclosed that Philippines doesn’t have enough nurses, as they would rather work “somewhere else,” Metro Manila has an over-concentration of physicians.

Tinio urged the Health department to increase the supply of medical equipment such as face masks and personal protective equipment (PPEs) in public and private hospitals.

39 coronavirus patients in Taiwan already recovered and released from hospitals

Taiwan released a total of 39 patients diagnosed with novel coronavirus COVID-19 from hospitals in Taiwan after recovering and testing negative with the virus, according to Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC).

The bar for releasing an infected person from quarantine has been set higher at three negative tests instead of just two to reduce the possibility of a recurrence according to Health and Welfare Minister Chen Shih-chung.

The remaining patients are still in hospital quarantine under treatment while others are already in stable condition, the CECC said.

Meanwhile, Taiwan yesterday announced new cases that hits total to 298 confirmed COVID-19 infections where mostly are imported cases. 

Taiwan also confirmed its third death from COVID-19 Friday is man in his 40s who is a tour guide.


Taiwan announced its 3rd death due to COVID-19 who is a tour guide in his 40s

Taiwan announced the third person to die from COVID-19 who is a Taiwanese tour guide in his 40s, Taiwan News reported. The tour guided died on Sunday evening, he is case 108th in Taiwan. 

The man recently traveled to Austria and the Czech Republic where he possibly contracted th disease as Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) spokesperson Chuang Jen-hsiang announced his death.

Chuang said that he was the leader of a tour group that visited the two countries in March. The man developed a fever on March 17 and after seeking medical attention, he was diagnosed with the disease on March 19.

Central News Agency cited Chuang as saying that the deceased was a leader of a tour of Austria and the Czech Republic and the complications which led to the man's death are not yet known.

Taiwan currently total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Taiwan stands at 298 and the latest fatality brings the death toll to three.


Taiwan opens up on hiring migrant construction workers as MOL eases restrictions

The government is revising regulations to remove one of the main thresholds for contractors of public construction projects to hire migrant workers, with the new rules likely to come into effect in early April, according to the Ministry of Labor (MOL).

Under the MOL's existing regulations, contracted firms engaged in public works must meet three requirements to employ migrant workers — the total construction project cost must reach NT$10 billion (US$330.93 million); any separate contracts must amount to NT$1 billion; and the construction period must be 1.4 years or longer.

However, after a Taiwan engineering contractors association complained to the government that the strict restrictions have caused a serious labor shortage in the construction sector, the MOL agreed to remove the NT$10 billion threshold.

Once the restrictions are relaxed, an additional 1,382 migrant workers are expected to be able to enter the public construction sector, according to the Public Construction Commission.

According to the contractors association, some of its members complained that a labor shortage presents challenges for them because many public projects contracted out have been less than NT$10 billion in recent years, leaving many firms unable to apply to hire migrant workers.

Official statistics show that the annual number of migrant workers brought into the construction sector from 2001-2006 breached 10,000, with the number hitting a record high of 33,300 in 2011. 

However, since 2007, the average number of applications for hiring migrant workers in the sector has been below 10,000, with only 4,100 and 4,400 recorded in 2018 and 2019, respectively.

According to the MOL, between 2001 and 2011, many major public construction projects were launched, leading to the introduction of a large number of migrant workers. In the past few years, although an increasing number of public projects have been launched, they have been small-scale, causing a decline in the applications for hiring migrant workers, the ministry added. (By Pan Yi-ching and Evelyn Kao/CNA)

Market in Manila shuts down as one vendor tested positive with COVID-19

The Trabajo Market located in Sampaloc, Manila was shut down by local authorities after a female vendor recently tested positive for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

The patient was confined at the Philippine General Hospital last week and her COVID-19 test results came back positive on Saturday, prompting officials of Barangay 456 to close the market.

“Lockdown na raw po ang palengke dahil meron po na-trace na isang magba-baboy na positive raw po sa [COVID-19],” barangay councilor Mel Ocampo said to GMA News.

The vendor's niece and one of the people she worked with have been classified as persons under investigation for COVID-19 showed by Manila City Health Office.

Authorities said they will disinfect the establishment but still the market will remain closed.


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