Regional Updates (10/01/20)

Transport chief wants private firms to give contactless cards for free to commuters

TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY Arthur P. Tugade wants the reloadable card for fare payments at Metro Manila’s busway and railway systems be given for free to commuters in consideration of the coronavirus-prompted crisis, a department official said. Transportation Assistant Secretary Goddes Hope O. Libiran said in a phone message that Mr. Tugade had directed the concerned officials in the agency’s road and rail sectors to negotiate with the consortium behind the beep smart card, AF Payments, Inc., which is composed of Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC) and Ayala Corp. “Dapat libre lang ang card (The card should be for free). We are still under quarantine measures. Workers who have just returned to work are the main users of the rail system and the EDSA Busway,” Mr. Tugade was quoted as saying in a statement. AF Payments, however, said it is selling the cards at cost. “Starting October 1, beepTM cards are being sold at cost,” the company said in a statement. “We would like to assure the commuters that we will continue working together with government agencies and transport stakeholders to find ways on how to serve the public that’s truly beneficial to all,” it added. MPIC is one of three Philippine subsidiaries of Hong Kong’s First Pacific Co. Ltd., the others being PLDT, Inc. and Philex Mining Corp. Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., maintains an interest in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group. — Arjay L. Balinbin

Gov’t targets 42,000 beds for medical, isolation facilities

SECRETARY CARLITO G. Galvez Jr., chief implementer of the coronavirus response program, said at least 42,000 hospital beds are needed to further boost the country’s health and isolation facilities. “Kailangan magkaroon tayo ng karagdagang (We need to have additional) hospital beds at (and) quarantine isolation facilities… 42,000 beds (in total),” he said in a briefing on Thursday. Mr. Galvez said P4.5 billion has been allocated by the government for the construction of more coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) quarantine centers. Another P4.5 billion is budgeted for the use of existing hotels in Metro Manila and other urbanized areas as quarantine and isolation facilities. Metro Manila remains as the country’s COVID-19 epicenter, accounting for more than half of total patients, but Mr. Galvez said the daily reported cases are going down. He added that if the downtrend continues, he agrees with Metro Manila mayors that the economy can reopen further by November, but still with strict health protocols. Mr. Galvez said the inter-agency task force is discussing possible adjustments in the guidelines for the different quarantine levels. — Gillian M. Cortez

Duterte calls for consultations on Bataan nuclear plant revival

THE PRESIDENT has ordered the Energy secretary to hold community consultations before moving forward with plans to revive the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP). Palace Spokesperson Harry L. Roque said President Rodrigo R. Duterte gave this directive during a recent meeting with Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi and Mark O. Cojuangco, a former Pangasinan representative and nuclear energy advocate. “What the President said was start from the ground… and I take that to mean that us here in Bataan should be consulted first,” Mr. Roque said in a briefing held in Bataan on Thursday. Mr. Duterte issued an executive order in July directing an inter-agency body headed by the Department of Energy (DoE) to study the feasibility of using nuclear energy locally. The order also called for a feasibility study on reviving the mothballed BNPP. Mr. Cojuangco, during his term in the 14th Congress, filed a bill for the commercial operation of the plant. — Gillian M. Cortez

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