News from home: Mayon on Alert Level 3 and, finally, a health secretary

Kaycee Valmonte - Philstar.com
News from home: Mayon on Alert Level 3 and, finally, a health secretary
This handout photo made available by Kristin Moral shows Mount Mayon spewing white smoke as seen from Camalig on June 8, 2023. Hundreds of families living around Mount Mayon in central Albay province are expected to be moved to safer areas after the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology raised a "hazardous eruption" alarm.
Handout / Kristin Moral / AFP

MANILA, Philippines — From Alert Level 3 being hoisted on Mayon Volcano by Phivolcs to President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. finally appointing a health secretary — these were among our headlines and news stories from the past week we think you should know if you’re a Filipino based abroad. 

Overseas Filipinos

  • Marcos Jr. vowed to work more closely with governments of OFWs' host countries to better protect overseas Filipino workers’ welfare as he greeted the country’ “modern-day heroes” on National Migrant Workers Day. Migrant Workers Secretary Susan “Toots” Ople also promised to serve OFWs and their families every day to help them fulfill their own goals. 

    The DMW, together with the Department of Trade and Industry and other government and private stakeholders, inked several programs for business and financial training for migrant workers and their families last week.

  • Canada has relaxed visa restrictions for the Philippines after Manila was included in a list of countries where qualified nationals can be issued an electronic travel authorization (eTA) in lieu of a visa. This means that Filipinos who have had a Canadian visa in the past 10 years or those with a valid US non-immigrant visa can easily enter Canada.

    Application for the eTA costs CAN$7 (around P293) and the Canadian Embassy said most applications are automatically approved within minutes.

  • As the Philippines and Kuwait continue ironing out issues with visas for Filipinos, the Department of Foreign Affairs noted that the Gulf state can “do more” to protect workers deployed there. 

    For example, this can be done by giving workers access to the internet or by at least allowing them to keep their own passports. The Philippine embassy in Kuwait estimates that at least one in every 400 Filipino household workers has tried to escape from their abusive employers. 

Work and the economy

  • The Marcos Jr. administration is seeking a P5.768-trillion budget for next year, which is 9.5% higher than the 2023 budget. While further details have yet to be made public, economic managers last week said the increased budget would help implement projects in infrastructure development, food security, among others. 
  • The controversial bill that seeks to create the Maharlika Investment Fund is being delayed by corrections and the Senate secretariat is still fixing errors that include the prescriptive period for offenses, Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva said. Former Senate presidents have called on Congress to recall its approval so it can be fixed. 

Politics and the nation

  • Mayon Volcano has been active this week, with state volcanologists hoisting Alert Level 2 to 3 in just a span of a few days due to its increased unrest. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology on Thursday warned there is an “increased tendency towards a hazardous eruption.” 

    Albay province has since been placed under a state of calamity and government agencies are preparing to send aid to affected residents. As of Sunday morning, the NDRRMC logged 12,804 displaced individuals who have since found shelter in 22 of the government’s evacuation centers.

    You can follow Philstar.com’s live updates on Mayon Volcano’s restiveness here.

  • Marcos Jr. has appointed Dr. Teodoro Herbosa as the country’s health secretary after the Department of Health has been operating under a “caretaker” for the past year, under the leadership of Health officer-in-charge Ma. Rosario Vergeire. Herbosa served as a special adviser to the National Task Force Against COVID-19 and was DOH undersecretary from 2010 to 2015.

    Herbosa’s priorities include digitizing the country’s healthcare system and improving access to medicine, reaching out to those in remote communities.

    Along with Herbosa came the appointment of Gilberto Teodoro back to the helm of the Department of National Defense, where he will foresee the issues on military and uniform personnel’s pension fund as well as the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ modernization program. 

  • A Muntinlupa court last week denied former Sen. Leila de Lima’s petition for bail on her remaining drug case as she awaits trial, but her lawyers said they will file a motion for reconsideration. Rights groups have said the denial “prolongs the injustice committed against her more than six years ago,” as De Lima has long-maintained innocence in allegations of being involved in the illegal drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison. 

    The Office of the Court Administrator has officially ordered the court handling the former’s senator case to wrap things up within nine months.

  • The Bureau of Fire Protection traced the cause of the Manila Central Post Office to a car battery that was in storage with office supplies, thinners, paints, and cans in the historic building’s basement. Initial damage on the Post Office is estimated at P300 million. 

You can view last week’s rundown here or sign up for the newsletter here.

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