Good day. Here are the stories for The Manila Times for Saturday, May 22, 2021.

READ: More sectors given vaccination priority

Frontline employees in the business processing outsourcing (BPO) industry and election personnel are among the sectors added to the groups prioritized for coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccination. Malacañang spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said Friday that during its meeting the previous day, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) approved the addition of the new sectors on the recommendation of the technical working group of the interim National Immunization Technical Advisory Group. Roque said frontline BPO employees and personnel of the Commission on Elections were inserted in Priority Group A4.

READ: Deliveries of Russian vaccine ramped up

More shipments of the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine will be arriving before the month ends, the Russian ambassador to the Philippines has assured. Ambassador Marat Pavlov said during The Manila Times Roundtable on Friday the shipments are part of the agreement Russian president Vladimir Putin and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte made during a phone call last April. Putin had promised the Philippine government 20 million Sputnik V doses before the end of the year.


READ: Vaccine pass could help revive tourism

A Covid-19 vaccine pass, given to individuals who have received the required two doses, can help revive domestic tourism, Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Jose Maria "Joey" Concepcion 3rd said on Friday. Concepcion pushed anew for the issuance of a proof-of-vaccination card to help the nation recover faster from the effects of the pandemic. He said some local business leaders have rallied behind the proposal.

READ: Biden signs law protecting Asian Americans

President Joe Biden signed a hate crimes law on Thursday (Friday in Manila) aimed at protecting Asian Americans who have suffered a surge in attacks during the Covid-19 pandemic. Racism, Biden told Asian American politicians and senior members of Congress in a packed room at the White House, is "an ugly poison that has long plagued our nation." Reeling off a list of violent incidents, which took place against a backdrop of anti-Chinese sentiment linked to the pandemic, Biden said the Asian American community had been made a "scapegoat."


READ: Departure of Filipino workers to Israel on hold despite ceasefire

THE departure of 400 Filipino caregivers to Israel remained on hold despite the ceasefire between the Israeli forces and militant Hamas. The ceasefire put a temporary halt to 11 days of conflict that left hundreds of fatalities and widespread destruction in the Gaza Strip.

READ: Suspicious transaction reports surge in 2020 – AMLC

The number of suspicious transactions or those involving alleged money laundering increased by more than 60 percent in 2020, a report released by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) showed. The STR Quality Review report said suspicious transaction reports (STRs) last year surged to 1.01 million, up by 63 percent from the 623,000 in 2019.


READ: Govt raises venue capacity of religious activities in NCR Plus

THE government has allowed religious gatherings in Metro Manila and in nearby provinces to up to 30 percent of the venue capacity until May 31. Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said on Friday that the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) made the decision after meeting with the Metro Manila Council on Thursday. The IATF-EID allows religious gatherings to up to 10 percent of the venue capacity in Metro Manila and in other areas under GCQ with heightened restrictions.

BUSINESS: Asia money chiefs tackle Covid

Over to business, financial stability authorities in the region recently met to discuss the challenges and recovery efforts amid the pandemic, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said. In a statement on Friday, the BSP said Bangko Sentral Governor Benjamin E. Diokno recently co-chaired the Regional Consultative Group for Asia (RCGA) virtual meeting of the Financial Stability Board (FSB). Seventeen Asian jurisdictions participated in the meeting and were joined by the FSB Secretariat based in Basel, Switzerland.

SPORTS: Govt to prioritize national athletes for vaccination

Topping sports, Filipino athletes and officials participating in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics and the Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi, Vietnam have moved up on the government's Covid-19 vaccine priority list, Malacañang announced on Friday. Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), in a meeting on Thursday, allowed athletes bound for the Tokyo and Hanoi to commence with their bubble-type training. Roque said the bubble-type training of athletes participating in the two major competitions was "subject to the applicable guidelines of the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), the Games and Amusement Board (GAB) and the Department of Health (DoH)."

READ: Opinion and editorial

Antonio Contreras and Yen Makabenta are today's front page columnists. Contreras talks about the innocent victims of war in the conflict between Israel and Palestine, while Makabenta discusses the Philippines in the Paris climate agreement.

Today's editorial believes the brand agnostic policy of the Department of Health is one of their better decisions. Read the 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 weekend ahead.