5.7-Magnitude Quake Shakes Philippines’ Main Island, Says USGS

Map of Philippines


A strong earthquake hit off the Philippines’ main island Monday, but there were no immediate reports of damage, the US Geological Survey and local officials said.

The deep 5.7-magnitude quake struck off Batangas province on Luzon island at 1:12 am (1712 GMT), with residents in the nearby capital of Manila woken by their buildings shaking.

The quake was recorded at a depth of 98 kilometres (60 miles), the USGS said. The local seismological agency warned of damage and aftershocks.

Deep quakes tend to do less damage than shallow tremors.

But authorities near the epicentre said they had not received any reports of damage.

“It was really strong,” Jose Clyde Yayong, a disaster officer in Tagaytay city in the neighbouring province of Cavite.

“So far there are no untoward incidents relating to the earthquake.”

Leonardo Tristan, a disaster officer in Looc town on Occidental Mindoro island, said the force of the quake sent some residents rushing outside.

“My wife was shouting ‘there’s an earthquake!'” Tristan told AFP.

The Philippines is regularly rocked by quakes due to its location on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, an arc of intense seismic activity that stretches from Japan through Southeast Asia and across the Pacific basin.


Philippines’ Manny Pacquiao To Run For President In 2022

Pacquiao, Roach At Loggerheads Over Reunion


Philippine boxer-turned-politician Manny Pacquiao declared Sunday he will run for president in 2022, ending months of speculation about whether the legendary fighter would seek the country’s top job.

“The time is now — we are ready to rise to the challenge of leadership,” said Pacquiao, as he accepted the nomination of a rival faction in President Rodrigo Duterte’s ruling party.

The eight-division world champion and beloved national hero made the announcement weeks after losing what could be his last professional fight against Cuban Yordenis Ugas in Las Vegas.

Pacquiao, who entered politics in 2010 as a congressman before being elected to the Senate, has long been expected to make a tilt for the country’s highest office.

The 42-year-old is deeply admired in the archipelago nation for his generosity and hauling himself out of poverty to become one of the world’s greatest and wealthiest boxers.

His boxing credentials along with fighting poverty and corruption are likely to be the key themes of his campaign.

“For those asking what are my qualifications, have you ever experienced hunger?” Pacquiao asked the national assembly held by the anti-Duterte faction of PDP-Laban.

“Have you ever experienced having nothing to eat, to borrow money from your neighbours or to wait for leftovers at a food stall? The Manny Pacquiao that is in front of you was moulded by poverty.”


‘Burnt Out’: Philippine Nurses Battle COVID-19, Resignations

The pandemic has exacerbated a pre-existing lack of nurses in the Philippines. (Maria TAN/ AFP)



Exhausted nurses in the Philippines are struggling to care for patients as colleagues contract COVID-19 or quit a profession that was dangerously understaffed even before the pandemic.

The country is enduring a record rise in infections, fuelled by the Delta variant, with the health department reporting a nursing shortfall of more than 100,000 — forcing those left to work long hours for little pay on often precarious short-term contracts.

“They are tired and burned out,” nursing director Lourdes Banaga, at a private hospital south of Manila, told AFP.

“At the start of the pandemic we had almost 200 nurses,” said Banaga, director for nursing services at the Lipa Medix Medical Center in Batangas province.

“By September that will reduce to 63.”

Official figures show 75,000 nurses are working in public and private Philippine hospitals but roughly 109,000 more are needed.

The pandemic has exacerbated a pre-existing lack of nurses, said Maristela Abenojar, president of Filipino Nurses United — a situation she describes as “ironic” in one of the world’s biggest exporters of healthcare workers.

The “chronic understaffing” is down to inadequate salaries, she said.

An entry-level nurse in a public hospital can earn 33,575 pesos ($670) per month, official data show.

But Abenojar said most were on short-term contracts, earning 22,000 pesos with no benefits such as hazard pay. Meanwhile, those in the private sector were making as little as 8,000 pesos.

And many have had enough: About 40 percent of private hospital nurses have resigned since the start of the pandemic, according to the Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines.

More than 5,000 nurses have been given the green light to go abroad this year after a Covid-19 ban was replaced with a cap to ensure enough nurses were available in the Philippines.

It hasn’t worked.

“We can’t get additional nurses, we can’t compel them to apply,” said Jose Rene de Grano of the private hospitals association.

– ‘We feel exhausted’ –
In recent weeks, health workers have protested over unpaid benefits, including a coronavirus special risk allowance. Abenojar said many were still waiting.

President Rodrigo Duterte has asked for patience while the government tries to come up with the money.

“We don’t feel cared for,” said Melbert Reyes of the Philippine Nurses Association.

Many hospitals boosted their bed capacity after a virus surge earlier this year threatened to overwhelm them.

Official data show coronavirus ward and ICU bed occupancy rates at more than 70 percent nationwide as daily cases often exceed 20,000, fuelled by the hyper-contagious Delta variant.

A public hospital in Binan city, near Manila, turned a car park into a ward.

“Many of our nurses are sick and in quarantine,” medical director Melbril Alonte told AFP.

“We feel exhausted… but we always keep in mind that we have to help our people because… no one else will.”

But due to the nursing shortfall, some facilities — like the Lipa Medix Medical Center — have had to slash their bed capacity, and extend their nurses’ shifts.

Nurse Trixia Bautista said she works up to 15 hours per shift looking after mostly severe Covid-19 patients at a public referral hospital in the capital.

At times, she has cared for as many as 30 patients on her own after nurses on her ward quit or got sick.

“Physically it’s very tiring,” she said. “There’s not enough people to cater to all these patients.”

– ‘Not worth being a nurse’ –
But there are plenty of qualified nurses in the Philippines, said Abenojar of Filipino Nurses United.

She estimated 200,000 to 250,000 were not working in the sector.

Many healthcare workers enter the profession to try to secure better-paid jobs abroad, but the shortage is not due to overseas migration.

“It’s because nurses have left the profession,” said Yasmin Ortiga, assistant professor of sociology at Singapore Management University, pointing to the dearth of stable jobs and dismal wages.

A proliferation of nursing programmes led to an oversupply, with many unable to get a permanent position in a local hospital — necessary to work abroad — and subsequently a drop in enrolments.

Ortiga said: “People realised that if I am unable to leave the country it’s really not worth being a nurse at home.”

‘Kill Them’: Philippines’ Duterte Wages War On Drugs

Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte delivers a speech/ AFP


President Rodrigo Duterte was swept to power in 2016 on a promise to get rid of narcotics in the Philippines, unleashing an unprecedented campaign against suspected drug users and dealers. 

The authoritarian firebrand has defended the brutal crackdown — his signature policy — that rights groups estimate has killed tens of thousands of people.

More than five years after the bloody campaign began, the International Criminal Court on Wednesday authorised a full-blown investigation into the killings.

Here is a timeline of key events during the drug war:

2016: Crackdown Begins

Duterte is sworn into office on June 30, 2016, promising a ruthless and deeply controversial war on crime.

Security services are given shoot-to-kill orders and even offered bounties for the bodies of drug dealers.

The former city mayor tells ordinary Filipinos to kill drug users.

“If you know of any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself as getting their parents to do it would be too painful,” Duterte says.

Since then, at least 6,181 people die in over 200,000 anti-narcotics operations, official data show.

ICC prosecutors in court papers estimate the figure to be between 12,000 to 30,000.

2017: ‘Corrupt’ Police Demoted

Duterte orders police to take a step back from the drug war in January, describing them as “corrupt to the core” and instructing the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) to lead after revelations that officers kidnapped and murdered a South Korean businessman.

It’s not long before Duterte reinstates the force and re-launches the war under the name “Double Barrel Reloaded” — so-called for the two-pronged police strategy to wipe out drugs.

He demotes the police again in October in the face of mounting public opposition to the drug war — before ordering them back to the frontlines of the crackdown less than two months later.

2018: First Police Convictions

Three policemen are sentenced to decades in prison for murdering a teenager during an anti-narcotics sweep, marking the first conviction of officers carrying out Duterte’s drug war.

The 2017 killing of Kian delos Santos in a dank Manila alley sparks rare protests against the campaign.

Police say the 17-year-old was a drug courier who fired at them while resisting arrest. However, CCTV footage shows two of the policemen dragging the unarmed boy moments before he was shot dead.

2019: Philippines Exits ICC

The Philippines officially exits the International Criminal court in March, a year after telling the United Nations that it was quitting the world’s only permanent war crimes tribunal.

The move comes after the ICC launches a preliminary examination in 2018 into Duterte’s drug crackdown.

2020: UN reports ‘Near Impunity’

The United Nations’ human rights office says in June the drug war has unleashed widespread and systematic killing with “near impunity” for offenders.

Calling for an independent probe into human rights abuses, the office says police have been encouraged by the highest levels of government to use lethal force on drug suspects and thousands have been killed by officers and unknown gunmen since 2016.

But the UN Human Rights Council, which had requested the review of the crackdown, later passes a resolution for the UN to provide “technical assistance” to the Philippines to improve human rights in the country.

2021: ICC Investigates

The International Criminal Court approves a full-blown investigation into the drug war on September 15, after its judges say the crackdown could be a crime against humanity.

Duterte does not immediately respond, but his close advisers insist the tribunal has no jurisdiction in the Philippines and the president will not cooperate.

The announcement comes weeks after Duterte, who is barred under the constitution from seeking a second term, declares he will run for vice president in next year’s elections.

Critics say the move is partly driven by fear of criminal charges, though there is debate over whether the vice president enjoys legal immunity.

Philippines Retrieves Crashed Military Plane’s Black Boxes

Site of the plane crash. Photo: AFP


Philippine security forces have retrieved the cockpit voice and flight data recorders of a military aircraft that crashed in a coconut grove and killed 53 people, a top commander said Tuesday.

The C-130 Hercules transport plane was carrying 96 people, mostly fresh army graduates, when it overshot the runway on Sunday while trying to land on Jolo island in the southern Sulu province.

Witnesses and survivors told investigators the plane landed “hard” and then bounced twice before taking off again, said Lieutenant General Corleto Vinluan, chief of the Western Mindanao Command.

“Then at the right side of the airport it hit a tree — that’s the account of the injured,” Vinluan told AFP.

Most of the dead were soldiers being deployed to the island — a haven for Islamist militants — as part of a counter-insurgency effort.

The death toll among those on board rose to 50 after a soldier suffering “chemical burns” to his face and smoke inhalation died overnight, said armed forces chief General Cirilito Sobejana.

Three civilians who were not on the flight were also killed as the plane ploughed through coconut trees and houses.

Another 50 people, mostly troops, were injured. Many suffered severe burns when the four-engine aircraft exploded into flames.

READ ALSO: Death Toll In Philippines Military Plane Crash Rises To 52

The cockpit voice and flight data recorders, which are known as black boxes, will be sent to the United States for analysis, Vinluan said.

The CVR records flight crew conversations and the flight data recorder holds information about the speed, altitude and direction of the plane.

They could explain what caused the C-130, which the military said was in “very good condition”, to crash in sunny weather.

“We will be able to hear from that black box what was the last conversation of the pilots and crew in the cockpit so we can ascertain the situation that really happened,” Sobejana told CNN Philippines.

– Aviation accidents –

Photos of the scene released by the military showed the damaged tail and smoking wreckage scattered among trees.

Dental records are being used to help in the painstaking effort to identify badly charred bodies.

“So far we have identified six or seven of them,” said Sobejana.

“We are doing our best… we need to bring them to their family at the soonest possible time.”

C-130s have been the workhorses of air forces around the world for decades, used to transport troops, supplies and vehicles.

The second-hand Hercules that crashed Sunday was acquired from the United States and delivered to the Philippines earlier this year.

It was one of four in the country’s fleet. Two others are being repaired while the third has been grounded following the crash.

Sunday’s crash was one of the country’s worst military air disasters and the latest in a series of accidents this year.

Last month, a Black Hawk helicopter went down during a night-time training flight, killing all six on board. The accident prompted the grounding of the country’s entire Black Hawk fleet.


Death Toll In Philippines Military Plane Crash Rises To 50


Philippine security forces searched among coconut trees on a remote southern island Monday for the flight data boxes of an aircraft that crashed and killed 50 people in one of the country’s worst military air disasters.

The C-130 Hercules transport plane was carrying 96 people, most of them recent army graduates, when it overshot the runway on Sunday while trying to land on Jolo island in Sulu province — a haven for Islamist militants.

The plane “skidded” and burst into flames in a village, killing 50 people including 47 military personnel and three civilians, said military spokesman Major General Edgard Arevalo.

Another 53 were injured, most of them soldiers. It was not clear if the pilots were among the survivors.

“This is one of the worst tragic incidents that happened in our armed forces,” Arevalo said.

The three civilians killed were not on the flight and had been working in a quarry, village leader Tanda Hailid told AFP.

Photos of the scene released by the military’s Joint Task Force-Sulu showed the damaged tail and smoking wreckage scattered in a coconut grove.

“We have people on the ground to make sure the integrity of the pieces of the evidence that we will retrieve, most particularly the flight data recorder,” Arevalo said.

“Aside from eyewitness accounts, we are also looking for recordings, radio conversation recordings between the pilot and the control tower.”

Arevalo said the military had secured the crash site and would ensure militants on the island do not disrupt search efforts.

Dental records were being used to help identify the charred remains of victims.

Most of the passengers recently graduated from basic military training and were being deployed to the restive island as part of a counter-insurgency effort in the Muslim-majority region.

The military has a heavy presence in the southern Philippines where militant groups, including the kidnap-for-ransom outfit Abu Sayyaf, operate.

‘Worst crash’

C-130s have been the workhorses of air forces around the world for decades, used to transport troops, supplies, and vehicles.

The second-hand Hercules that crashed Sunday was acquired from the United States and delivered to the Philippines earlier this year.

It was one of four in the country’s fleet and was in “very good condition”, the military said. Two others are being repaired while the third has been grounded following the crash.

“These are all seasoned and experienced pilots, that’s why we are also unable to immediately say how this… (happened),” said Arevalo.

“Even if these (military assets) are not brand new… these are airworthy.”

“This ranks as the worst crash of a Philippine military aircraft with 50 dead so far as compared to the 40 dead in a 1971 crash of a PAF C-47,” Jose Antonio Custodio, a military historian and analyst, told AFP.

It was the latest in a series of recent military air accidents in the Philippines.

Last month, a Black Hawk helicopter went down during a night-time training flight, killing all six on board. The accident prompted the grounding of the country’s entire Black Hawk fleet.

President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman Harry Roque said Monday the incidents would provide “impetus for further modernisation” of the armed forces.

“The whole country is mourning,” he said.

Death Toll Rises To 29 In Philippine Military Plane Crash


At least 29 people were killed and 50 injured Sunday when a Philippine military aircraft carrying troops crashed and burst into flames after missing the runway in the country’s south, officials said.

Another 17 on board the C-130 Hercules transport plane when it crashed while trying to land on Jolo island in Sulu province are still missing, Major General William Gonzales said in a statement.

“This is a sad day but we have to remain hopeful,” he said.

Photos taken by local media outlet Pondohan TV and posted on their Facebook page showed the wrecked body of the plane engulfed in flames. A plume of thick black smoke rose above houses located near the crash site.

Armed Forces Chief General Cirilito Sobejana said the aircraft had been carrying troops from Cagayan de Oro on the southern island of Mindanao when it “missed the runway” as it tried to land on Jolo.

READ ALSO: Boeing 737 Cargo Makes Emergency Landing On Water


The plane tried to “regain power but didn’t make it,” he told local media, describing the accident as “very unfortunate”.

“Responders are at the site now, we are praying we can save more lives,” Sobejana told AFP.

Sobejana said the 40 rescued from the wreckage were being treated at the nearby 11th Infantry Division hospital.

Air Force spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Maynard Mariano said the cause of the crash would be investigated.

“We are on rescue mode right now,” Mariano told AFP.


It was being treated as an accident rather than an attack, Armed Forces spokesman Major General Edgard Arevalo told DZBB radio.

The four-engine plane crashed near a quarry in a lightly populated area, First Lieutenant Jerrica Angela Manongdo told AFP, adding the rescue operation had finished.

Initial reports said the aircraft overshot the landing strip and broke into two, Western Mindanao Command chief Lieutenant General Corleto Vinluan told AFP.

Most of the passengers had recently graduated from basic military training and were being deployed to the restive island as part of a joint task force fighting terrorism in the Muslim-majority region.

The military has a heavy presence in the southern Philippines where militant groups, including the kidnap-for-ransom outfit Abu Sayyaf, operate.


One of the deadliest

C-130 aircraft, the workhorses of the air force, are used to transport troops and supplies. They are also often deployed to deliver humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

The mishap was one of the country’s deadliest military aviation accidents.

Senator Richard Gordon said it was the fourth this year with “mass casualties”.

“Are we buying defective crafts w the people’s money?” he tweeted.

Sunday’s accident comes after a Black Hawk helicopter crashed last month during a night-time training flight, killing all six onboard.

Three pilots and three airmen died when their S70-i went down near the Crow Valley training range north of Manila, prompting the grounding of the entire fleet.

The country ordered 16 of the multi-role aircraft from a Polish firm that made them under licence from the Sikorsky division of US defence manufacturer Lockheed Martin.

Eleven have been delivered since late 2020.

Philippines’ Ex-President ‘Noynoy’ Aquino Dies

(FILES) Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino, the Philippines’ former president who waged an anti-corruption agenda and ushered in key economic reforms during his term has died at the age of 61, officials said on June 24, 2021. (Photo by HOANG DINH Nam / AFP)



Former Philippine president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino, the reserved scion of one of Asia’s most famous political families, died Thursday. He was 61.

Aquino, who was in office from 2010 to 2016, was the only son of the late former president Corazon Aquino and her assassinated husband, senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, both revered for leading the struggle to restore democracy in the archipelago nation.

President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman announced Aquino’s death hours after local media reported the former leader had been rushed to a Manila hospital.

“We commiserate and condole with the family and loved ones of former president Benigno Simeon ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III as we extend our condolences on his untimely demise,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.

“We are grateful to the former president for his contributions and services to the country and we ask our people to offer a prayer for the eternal repose of the former chief executive.”

Details about the unmarried politician’s death were not announced. The Aquino clan was expected to issue a statement shortly.

Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin tweeted his “grief over the death of a sea-green incorruptible”.

He said Aquino was “brave under armed attack, wounded in crossfire, indifferent to power and its trappings, and ruled our country with a puzzling coldness but only because he hid his feelings so well it was thought he had none”.

Supreme Court Justice Marvic Leonen, who was Aquino’s former peace negotiator with Muslim rebels, expressed “profound sadness” over the former leader’s death.

“I knew him to be a kind man, driven by his passion to serve our people, diligent in his duties, and with an avid and consuming curiosity about new knowledge and the world in general,” Leonen said.

Aquino, who was succeeded by President Rodrigo Duterte, waged an anti-corruption campaign during a term that ushered in key economic reforms.

Unusually for the conservative Catholic country, Aquino remained a bachelor throughout his life, though had relationships with a number of women.

– Powerful family name –
Aquino was born on February 8, 1960 to one of the country’s wealthiest land-owning political families.

A latecomer to the presidential race in 2010, he declared his candidacy only after his mother’s death from cancer the previous year had plunged the country into mourning, and demonstrated the power of the family name.

He made fighting corruption his mantra, capitalising on his family’s clean reputation, and vowed to reduce the poverty afflicting a third of the population.

His administration delivered average annual economic growth of just over 6.0 percent, the highest since the 1970s, handing the country investment-grade status — but poverty remained endemic.

Aquino, who earned an economics degree from the elite Ateneo de Manila University, was long mocked by opponents as a fortunately surnamed under-achiever with no administrative or business experience.

They also said he had little to show for the more than a decade he spent as a congressman and senator.

But the chain-smoking Aquino blossomed during the election campaign into a confident public speaker and the nation’s leading critic of his predecessor, Gloria Arroyo, who was arrested for corruption after she left office.

The Aquino family name was stamped into Philippine political history through tragedy.

Military personnel shot dead “Ninoy” Aquino at Manila airport in 1983 as he returned from US exile to lead the democracy movement against dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

The event shocked the world and ignited the non-violent “People Power” movement that toppled Marcos. The martyred politician’s widow, Corazon, led the revolution and succeeded Marcos as president in 1986.

Aquino had a bullet lodged in his neck — one of five that struck him when rebel soldiers attacked the presidential palace in 1987 in a coup attempt against his mother.

Unlike Duterte, Aquino put the Philippines’ long-running dispute with China over competing claims to the South China Sea at the top of his foreign policy agenda.

He launched a landmark case with a UN-backed tribunal to challenge Beijing’s claims to most of the sea, which ruled in favour of the Philippines.

But Beijing rejected the decision.

Aquino is survived by four sisters.

5.7 Magnitude Quake Rocks Southern Philippines

Map of Philippines


A 5.7 magnitude earthquake rocked the southern Philippines Monday, the US Geological Survey said, with local authorities warning of possible damage as a series of aftershocks shook the natural disaster-prone region.

The shallow quake struck on Mindanao island at 10:38 pm local time (1438 GMT), according to USGS.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology warned of damage and aftershocks from the quake, which it said had a magnitude of 5.9.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage, but the acting police chief in Kadingilan town, near the epicentre of the quake, said it was “really strong”.

“Our police station was shaking,” Captain Dino Cuevas told AFP.

“We had to rush outside. We’re still outside since we continue to feel aftershocks.”

Sheen Therese Romo, a disaster official in the same town, said aftershocks were hampering efforts to deploy personnel to assess the area for any damage.

Bukidnon police chief Jun Mark Lagare said there had been no reports so far of damage in the province.

The Philippines is situated on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, an arc of intense seismic activity that stretches from Japan through Southeast Asia and across the Pacific basin.

WHO Declares Philippines Polio-Free After Vaccine Campaign



The Philippines is once again polio-free, the World Health Organization said Friday, after a successful vaccination campaign that has raised hopes for Covid-19 inoculations in a country plagued by mistrust of jabs.

Polio re-emerged in the country in 2019, nearly two decades after its last cases were detected, sparking a nationwide effort to immunise millions of children against the crippling disease.

At least 17 people were infected, but health authorities said they have not detected the virus in a child or the environment in the past 16 months.

“We are celebrating freedom from polio,” said Rabindra Abeyasinghe, the WHO representative in the Philippines.

More than 80 percent of unvaccinated children were immunised in the nationwide effort, which Abeyasinghe said was “adequate to interrupt the transmission”.

The 2019 outbreak began shortly after deadly dengue fever and measles epidemics and as vaccination coverage plunged partly due to the botched rollout of a dengue shot a few years earlier.

Polio is highly infectious and can lead to paralysis and even death. There is no known cure.

The virus that re-emerged in the Philippines had genetically mutated from a weakened strain of wild polio that is contained in the oral vaccine used all over the world to control the disease.

Philippine health officials hope the success of the polio vaccination effort will be replicated in its rollout of Covid-19 jabs.

Only around 1.6 million people — or just over one percent of the population — have been fully vaccinated against the disease. The glacial pace has been blamed on supply shortages and safety fears.

“We have numerous surveys indicating that vaccine confidence is low, but this (polio) campaign has proven otherwise,” Health Undersecretary Rosario Vergeire said.

“Hopefully these kinds of activities and these kinds of efforts will be paralleled and patterned when we do our Covid-19 vaccinations and when supplies are ready.”

Philippines Receives First COVID-19 Vaccines From China

A health worker receives the first Sinovac vaccine against the Covid-19 coronavirus disease at the Lung Center of the Philippines in Manila on March 1, 2021. (Photo by maria Tan / AFP)


The Philippines received 600,000 vaccine doses from China Sunday, kickstarting the country’s inoculation drive despite concerns over the Sinovac jab’s effectiveness.

Top government officials and health workers will be the first on Monday to receive the Chinese-made vaccine — called CoronaVac — just days after the drug regulator approved it for emergency use.

President Rodrigo Duterte, whose government has been under fire over delays in procuring vaccines, oversaw the delivery of the doses at a military air base.

Around 525,000 doses of AstraZeneca jab, distributed as part of the global Covax global inoculation programme, were also supposed to arrive on Monday, but Health Secretary Francisco Duque later said the shipment will be delayed for a week due to global supply problems.

The regulator did not recommend CoronaVac for healthcare workers due to its comparatively low efficacy.

An advisory group to the Philippine government allowed it to be offered to those willing to take it, but many nurses and doctors are reluctant and have opted to wait for other vaccines.

In the Philippine General Hospital, one of the country’s main facilities treating Covid-19 patients, only 10 percent of staff were willing to be inoculated with the Chinese-made vaccine, spokesman Jonas Del Rosario told AFP.

It was far from the 94 percent who registered to take the Pfizer-BioNTech jab, said Del Rosario, who himself opted not to take the CoronaVac shot.

The hesitancy is not new in the Southeast Asian nation, which has struggled with vaccine programmes in recent years.

The Philippines was the first country in 2016 to deploy the dengue vaccine Dengvaxia, but a botched rollout led to unfounded claims that several dozen children had died from the jab.

Recent surveys have shown vaccine confidence remains low, with almost half of the population reportedly unwilling to be inoculated against the coronavirus.

To boost trust, several top officials — including the health minister — are expected to receive the CoronaVac jab.

President Duterte, who has defended Chinese-made vaccines, suggested he will be inoculated in public, having previously said he would receive it in private.

But the 75-year-old leader’s doctors are still deciding which vaccine to use for him.

The rollout came as the number of daily new infections in the Philippines hit a four-month high. More than 570,000 cases have been confirmed, including over 12,000 deaths.

Aside from hospital workers, the military is set to receive 100,000 Sinovac doses.

Members of the Philippines armed forces are required to get vaccinated and those who refuse could be disciplined.

The government is in talks with seven vaccine makers, including Sinovac, in the hope of securing enough doses to inoculate 70 million people — about 60 percent of the population — this year.

But the bulk of the supply is not expected to start arriving until the summer.

6.0-Magnitude Earthquake Hits Southern Philippines


A strong earthquake hit the southern Philippines on Sunday, though there were no immediate reports of casualties or damage, the US Geological Survey and local officials said.

The 6.0-magnitude quake struck the town of Bansalan on Mindanao island at 12:22 pm (0422 GMT), the USGS said in a bulletin.

The quake was recorded at a depth of 15.6 kilometres (9.7 miles), it said, slightly shallower than at first reported by the agency.

“It was strong, but things did not topple or fall off,” Major Peter Glenn Ipong, the police chief of Bansalan, told AFP by telephone from the epicentre.

Ipong and civil defence officials in the region reported strong shaking but said there were no immediate reports of casualties or damage.

READ ALSO: Telemedicine Takes Off In Germany During Pandemic

The USGS in an earlier bulletin put the epicentre two kilometres east of the neighbouring town of Magsaysay before revising the location to Bansalan.

The Philippines is regularly rocked by quakes due to its location on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, an arc of intense seismic activity that stretches from Japan through Southeast Asia and across the Pacific basin.

The region around Bansalan, a town of 60,000 people, was struck by three deadly quakes over a two-week period in October 2019, killing at least 10 people.