Good day. Here are the stories for The Manila Times for Friday, April 30, 2021.

READ: ICT boost key to recovery – experts

The Philippines must upgrade its information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure to promote financial inclusion and support economic recovery. Representatives from the UK FCDO Asean Economic Reform Program, National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), Globe Telecoms Inc. and Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) underscored the need to build up the country’s ICT infrastructure during The Manila Times online business forum “Cut-through, countrywide digital solutions” on Thursday. John Owens, the financial technology lead for UK FCDO Asean Economic Reform Program, said the Philippines lagged behind other countries in terms of ICT despite pioneering in ICT-based financial services. NTC Deputy Commissioner Edgardo Cabarios cited inadequate physical and digital infrastructure as the reason for Philippines lagging behind Vietnam in internet speed. Globe Director for Technology Strategy Gerhard Tan said the telecommunications firm will be spending P70 billion to expand its footprint by building more cell sites and improving the fiber connectivity to home lines. ARTA Director General Jeremiah Belgica said several government agencies have come up with a joint circular that harmonized provisions on the building of telecommunications towers. The Manila Times forum was conducted in partnership with Globe Telecom Inc. Other partners are the British Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, French Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the Philippines, Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines, and Management Association of the Philippines.

READ: More businesses to open during MECQ extension

The government task force leading the country’s coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) response will release a list of businesses that will be allowed to reopen in areas under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ). Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. made the announcement Thursday after President Rodrigo Duterte decided to extend for another two weeks the MECQ in the National Capital Region (NCR) Plus. The Inter-agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATFT) was to meet on Thursday to discuss the economic revival in MECQ areas. Roque said they were looking at "gradually reopening" businesses to allow more people to return to their livelihood despite the strict quarantine measures.

READ: Covid positivity rate down to 17%

The percentage of people who tested positive for the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) has dropped to 16.74 percent from a high of 25.22 percent, testing czar Vivencio Dizon said on Thursday. The National Capital Region (NCR), the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the country, has a positivity rate of 17 percent. Dizon attributed the decline to the reimplementation of the enhanced community quarantine and modified enhanced community quarantine in Metro Manila and four nearby provinces which comprise the NCR Plus bubble. With the help of local government units (LGUs), the positivity rate has been cut by almost 10 percent, Dizon said.

READ: Public to get jabs in August

The government aims to start vaccinating the general public in August, when the country is expected to have received a substantial number of vaccines, according to Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., chairman of the National Task Force Against Covid-19. Galvez, during a Palace briefing on Wednesday night, said the government would start inoculating those belonging to the A4 (frontline personnel in essential sectors) and A5 priority group (indigent population) in June.

READ: ‘Coffee Break’ tackles vaccines

IN line with World Vaccination Week, celebrated yearly at the end of April, The Manila Times’ “Coffee Break” gathered a diverse panel of experts from the healthcare sector to discuss vaccine confidence in its webisode titled “Vaccines bring us closer.” Made possible with the help of MSD in the Philippines as part of its “Get well at Mercury Drug” diabetes care program, the discussion focuses on concerted efforts to build vaccine confidence.

READ: Business groups hold vaccine summit

Big business groups will hold a virtual vaccine summit on April 30 to help the government fast-track its Covid-19 vaccination program. The International Chamber of Commerce Philippines (ICCP), Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) and International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) organized the "Vaccine Summit: Equitable Distribution and Safety" to help ensure the effective administration of Covid-19 vaccines throughout the country. Ambassador Francis Chua, founding chairman of ICCP and chairman emeritus of PCCI, said the summit will provide information on the status of the global distribution of the Covid-19 vaccines.

READ: NCR economy fell 10.1% in 2020

THE economy in the National Capital Region posted a 10.1-percent decline in 2020, driven mainly by various disruptions, including the eruption of Taal Volcano, the African swine fever outbreak and capped by the coronavirus disease pandemic, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported on Thursday. In a press briefing, PSA officials said NCR’s gross domestic (GDP) product dropped by 10.1 percent to P5.6 trillion last year, compared to P6.2 trillion in 2019, which was a significant increase from P5.8 trillion in 2018. This represents an economic loss of P627.745 billion in 2020, and the third highest contraction among all 17 regions, said Paciano Dizon, regional director of PSA NCR.

READ: US-PH conclude child protection partnership

THE United States and the Philippines have completed their four-year Child Protection Compact (CPC) Partnership against the online exploitation of children. Signed in 2017 and concluded on April 11, 2021, the joint endeavor resulted in the arrest of 97 sex traffickers.

BUSINESS: Investors pulled out $540M in March

In business, rising consumer prices amid the surge in coronavirus disease 2019 infections prompted foreign portfolio investors to pull out more than $540 million in the Philippines in March, according to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP). Central bank data showed that net outflows of foreign portfolio investments, or “hot money” — so called because of how easily these go in and out of the economy — surged to $540.97 million in the third month of the year, a significant uptick from February’s $40.41-million net outflows. The latest figure — the highest net outflows since last May’s $1 billion, but lower than the year-earlier’s $961.08 million net outflows — resulted from $824.23 million in inflows and $1.36 billion in outflows.

SPORTS: Pacquiao-Crawford bout is off, Arum confirms

Topping sports, the proposed title fight between Filipino boxing great and Senator Manny Pacquiao and American World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight champion Terrence Crawford is now dead. This was according to Top Rank CEO Bob Arum, who manages Crawford. Arum, who also used to handle Pacquiao, said that both camps have already agreed to the terms of the bout, but it will not push through as the funding from a group in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates -- the place where the fight was supposed to take place on June 5 -- never came through.

READ: Opinion and editorial

Rigoberto Tiglao and Ruben Torres are today’s front page columnists. Tiglao asks if the NCR Plus bubble should prioritize vaccinating either senior citizens or workers, while Torres asks what is there to celebrate on Labor Day.

Today’s editorial discusses the recent struggles of India with Covid-19. Read a full version on the paper’s opinion section or listen to the Voice of the Times.

 

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With Dafort Villaseran, this is Aric John Sy Cua reporting. May you have a safe Friday ahead.