Grab takes over Uber in the Philippines

27 March 2018 – Uber Technologies Inc. has announced that it has sold its stake in the South East Asian Region to regional competitor Grab of Singapore.  In the said deal, Grab will take over operations of Uber in around 8 countries in the region where the 2 companies compete.

With this deal, Uber has bought in 27.5% stake in Singapore based Grab. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowhshahi will be seating in the Board of Grab based on the deal that was struck between the two transport giants.  Of the merger, Khosrowshahi said: “One of the potential dangers of our global strategy is that we take on too many battles across too many fronts and with too many competitors.”  The merger is touted as one of the biggest in the South East Asian region, leaving Grab as the dominant player in the market.  For Uber however, it is part of the efforts to streamline its costs in view of an upcoming public listing.  Currently, the deal between Grab and Uber largely affects the SEA region where Grab will be the predominant Brand.  But overall, Uber globally now owns a significant stake in Grab.

In the Philippines, both companies had been competing toe-for-toe in a market that lacks the modern amenities of modern mass transportation system. Recently, both operators were slapped with heavy fines and suspensions by the Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB) for operating without any franchise in the Philippine market.

In August of 2017, Uber had to pay a total fine of $10 Million dollars or Php 190 million in order to be able to operate its ride sharing transport model.  The fine was a result of Uber’s non compliance and ignoring an LTFRB order while Grab had complied with it.  This partly led to the resignation of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and the assumption of the position by Khosrowhshahi.

Sadly for the Philippine market, Uber was the more preferred brand due to its signing up private car owners as compared to Grabs taxi drivers who have been known to abuse passenger fares. Formal announcements in the Philippines have yet been made by both the franchisees of Uber and Grab and how the merger will take effect. There will be a two week period for the adjustments to take place as announced by Uber.

In a letter to the SEA Uber team, Khosrowhshahi congratulated the team for the growth they achieved and wished them well in the period of adjustment.  Philippine Uber app owners received emails stating that all legal obligations and contracts of Uber in the Philippines shall now be addressed to the legal department of Grab.

This news has been verified by NewsmePh



Dengvaxia implementation not against the COMELEC law-Aquino


Ed Gumban (photo ownership) Philippine Star

Photo by Ed Gumban of the Philippine Star. Former President Aquino showing the steep increase in Dengue incidence in the Philippine during his term in Office. (2010-2016)

Former President Aquino as he appeared to file his response to the electioneering case filed against him and his officials by the VACC related to the school based immunization program he launched said: “People’s Health cannot be held in abeyance!”

He pointed out that there was an existing Dengue epidemic as declared by former Secretary Enrique Ona way back in 2014 where Ona said: “Dengue in the Philippines has in recent years become an epidemic.”  Secretary Ona at that time had ordered the DOH to battle the Dengue epidemic using an untried and unproven drug called ActRX Triact, ordering clinical trials on over 2,000 patients without any FDA approval.  This partly caused his resignation from the DOH.

The former President added that the government acted based on what it knew at that time. He called the cases being filed against him and former officials as pure harassment.  Aquino has been very active in attending the hearings in the Senate and the House of Representatives on the issue of Dengvaxia.

Former Health Secretary Janette Garin who also filed her reply at the COMELEC said that the accusations were malicious since the program was school based in nature and only implemented in 3 Regions. “There was absolutely no politics involved in the school-based dengue immunization program I implemented. The recipients of the program are not voters. It could not have swayed any election results. Everything was above board and is beyond politics. The immunization program is a purely health issue.”

President Aquino said that health programs are not banned during periods of election specially when it concerns the health and welfare of the people. He showed a graph from the DOH epidemiology department showing the sharp increase in dengue incidence in the country starting in 2010 when there was a 140% rise from 2009.  He explained that the fight against the dengue virus is based on sound data from the DOH and the WHO.

Accusations of politics using the immunization were belied by former government officials since the current administration of President Rodrigo Duterte had continued the program under the helm of DOH Secretary Ubial.  According to Senator Gatchalian, Ubial had expanded the program to Region 7 and had over 10,000 policemen and their families immunized with the Dengvaxia vaccine.

In the last Blue Ribbon Committee Hearing held at the Senate, Dr. Scott Halstead a global Dengue expert pointed out the following: 1) The Dengvaxia vaccine cannot be diagnosed in an authopsy; 2) Neurotropism and Viscerotropism cannot be related to Dengvaxia because these are terms related only to yellow fever and not dengue; 3) Dengvaxia does not cause any other illness; and 4) He cannot blame the former Health Minister of the Philippines as they (DOH) acted in good faith.  Halstead said that Dengvaxia was effective in protecting against the dengue virus for those who are seropositive or those who have had dengue previously, but not effective in preventing the disease for those who have not had it yet. He suggested that the government take immediate steps to care for those who have been vaccinated.

This news has been verified by NewsmePH


PAO autopsy no basis -Halstead

Scott Halstead, foremost US Dengue expert testified in the joint Blue Ribbon and Health Committee hearings of the Senate said: “The Diagnosis of Dengvaxia cannot be based on autopsy! There are a lot of autopsies being done now because, unfortunately, children die for one reason or another after vaccination.  This is a very old phenomenon.  I’ve been in the vaccine business forever and there are always problems like this.”

Halstead had directly disputed the Philippine Public Attorney’s Office position and the claims of its Head, PAO Chief Persida Acosta that the autopsies they have conducted are directly linked to the Dengvaxia vaccine. The continued PAO announcements in media created panic and hysteria among the parents vaccinated with the vaccine and the population at large. This led to a 40% percent decline in the whole free immunization programs conducted by the Department of Health.  Earlier in the week, the DOH had warned the PAO against coming out with inconclusive statements.

Despite the announcements of PAO Medico-legal Erwin Erfe and PAO consultant Dr. Amata of the Ospital ng Maynila that they do not have conclusive evidence, PAO Chief Acosta continued on with her claim “namatay dahil sa Dengvaxia” (deaths were caused by Dengvaxia) stating that these were the results of the autopsies they conducted which she claimed were signs of viscerotropism and neurotropism. (these were echoed by Dr. Suzy Pineda Mercado in her various TV interviews).

Read: DOH warns PAO vs sowing hysteria

Halstead debunked these saying: “it is not appropriate to use the terms viscerotropism and neurotropism in relation to Dengvaxia. Viscerotropism is a medical term defining the effect on the body’s internal organs, usually the heart, lungs and liver; while neurotropism refers to the effect on the nerves.  These terms are applied to Yellow Fever and not dengue.”

At the time that the school based dengue immunization was introduced, the Philippines was experiencing a Dengue epidemic with more than 200,000 cases of dengue and dengue hemorrhagic fever affecting the Philippines according to World Health Organization data.  The Philippine was at the top of the list in Western Pacific Area and number 1 among ASEAN countries.  Dengue expert Dr. Scott Halstead said that “He could not blame the Philippines Health Minister at that time because they had acted in good faith.”  The Sanofi findings only came out in November of 2017.

Halstead continued by saying that people should not be afraid of vaccinations and added that people who were vaccinated by Dengvaxia should be monitored and given care. DOH Secretary has already ordered the establishment of Dengue fast-lanes in all public and private hospitals to care for the immunized and those afflicted by Dengue. “Halstead added: “We don’t want people to feel vaccines are dangerous and maintained that Dengvaxia remains effective in protecting people who are seropositive for the dengue virus (those who have had dengue) but not effective in preventing the disease for those who are seronegative at the time of immunization.”

When the school based dengue immunization was launched using Dengvaxia, 400,000 plus students aged 9-14 (highest at risk for dengue based on DOH data) were given the first dose in limited areas with high dengue incidence. Secretary Paulyn Ubial would continue the program and expand it to other areas, converting to the community based program providing the 2nd and 3rd doses to those previously immunized and the 1st up to the 3rd doses among the remainder of 830,000 students and over 10,000 policemen and their families. Secretary Duque would also continue the program and later on suspend it due to the public outcry caused by the PAO.

During the time of Secretary Enrique Ona, a national dengue immunization program was launched using a different untested drug called ActRX Triact.  The school based program was a continuation of the said immunization program of the DOH, but using the WHO approved Dengvaxia.

With the pronouncements of Halstead. Senator Gordon ended the Senate Hearings on Dengvaxia and said that the report will be forthcoming.

#Dengate #Denggate #DengGate #Dengvaxia #Dengue

This news has been verified by NewsmePh

Note: Photo is owned by GMA Network News duly noted in photo.


PAO dengue analysis a mistake – Sec Duque

A nine year old patient shown by the Public Attorney’s Office as being delirious in TV during the height of the Dengvaxia investigations was instead found to have been protected by the vaccine.

According to DOH Secretary Duque in his hospital visit to Ospital ng Maynila where the patient was confined, they found the patient to be “Negative for the NS1 antigen, which is the marker for dengue infection.  However, positive for IGM and IGG, which only means that the vaccine has induced a protective anti-body response or production.”

This contrary to the persistent, wild and much publicized claims of PAO Chief Persida Acosta. Dr. John Arnel Amata, PAO pathologist consultant from the Ospital ng Maynila, last Feb 28 said that pronouncements of PAO should be very careful because viral diseases overlap and may cause bleeding, not all cases can be linked to Dengvaxia.  This was confirmed by the statement of their medico-legal Erwin Erfe who said all their findings remain inconclusive.

DOJ Secretary Aguirre in a previous statement also said that the statements coming from the PAO Medico-Legal should not be believed because it is not coming from an expert. “Erfe is not a pathologist, he is not an expert! We will get a foreign expert to help the government.”

In a March 6, TV-Radio interview, Acosta countered that the PAO already has experts.  She also claimed that experts are no longer needed in the case based on their own findings in direct contravention to the wishes of Secretary Aguirre which she uses as her mandate for conducting the PAO investigations.

Some sectors have claimed that the PAO Chief is using the investigations to increase her chances in a possible Senatorial Bid. Others called for the medical investigations be left with the DOH-PGH panel of experts. Questions on the PAO investigations have also been aired on why the PAO has been concentrating its efforts on destroying former Secretary Garin and current Secretary Duque, when the PAO has been quiet about former Secretary Ubial who was responsible for administering the most number of doses of Dengvaxia under her expanded immunization program which saw it being implemented at the barangay level and in areas outside the initial pilot areas.

The current statement of DOH Secretary Duque coincides with the statement of foremost Philippine pathologist Dr. Raquel Fortune who said: “The PAO investigation is wrong because PAO has already made a conclusion, and they are getting evidence to support their conclusion.”

This news has been verified by NewsmePh

Sotto opposes P 2.1 B Comelec-Smartmatic deal

March 8 – In a privilege speech delivered in the Senate, Senator Sotto opposed the P2.1 B peso deal on the purchase of 97,000 vote counting machines by Comelec from Smartmatic.  Sotto said there are still questions pending on the last elections results which used the technology platform provided by Smartmatic.  Sotto claimed foreign meddling on the results benefitted 6 candidates which he did not name. He said the anomalies were discovered to have started in Libon, Albay.

Sotto further added that the servers were not secure since there was an intrusion during May 8, 10 and 11.  Commissioner Guanzon of the COMELEC said the allegation was impossible since the the server was closed and this was only opened after balloting. Namfrel, the citizens watchdog, frowned on the investigation being conducted by the legal department of the COMELEC saying that the probe must be done by IT experts and that the probe should be conducted by competent authorities in the proper forum.

President Duterte won by an astounding 8 million votes over his closest rival in the May 2016 elections.  Most pending protests rest on the Vice Presidential position and Senatorial slots.

COMELEC spokesperson James Jimenez said that they will be addressing the allegations of Senator Tito Sotto and require Smartmatic to submit documents relating to it.

Meanwhile, the COMELEC remains busy preparing for the Mid Term elections in 2019

This report is verified by NewsmePh with the following links:


Boracay CLOSEDOWN looms

March 7, 2018 – Closedown of world famous island resort of Boracay is looming based on the pronouncement of President Duterte during the oath taking ceremonies of PACC officials last night at Malacanan Palace.

Duterte said that the closure will be for the good of the island and is inclined to approve the suggestions of DILG Secretary Eduardo Ano.  He said that this would be for the benefit of the residents and owners as well.  The President also warned against the filing of Temporary Restraining Orders against the move as he will just simply not follow it.

Senate President Coco Pimentel also backs the move for a 60 day closure to hasten the repair on the islands infrastructure and facilities.  Senator Cynthia Villar has however opposed the move in defense of the resort owners and residents saying that the move would affect the livelihood of the residents and the local economy.

Based on DOLE records the island directly employs over 17,000 workers and a significant amount more is employed by service providers from Aklan which include fishermen, farmers, drivers etc.  The whole local economy will be affected by the closure according to the DOLE official who asked not to be named pending an official position from the main office on the matter.

The DENR has been actively inspecting the facilities on the island the past 2 weeks and have cited various violations. (See previous report)

Boracay faces closure, hotel owners appeal

Violators of the 30m easement have been targeted and demolished as exemplified by the DENR action on West Cove “Pacman” Resort as owned by Crisostomo Aquino.

This Report is verified by NewsmePh


Former DOH Sec. Garin to appear in COMELEC

March 7 2018 – Former Health Secretary Janette Garin announced that she welcomes the invitation of the COMELEC in order to shed light on the Dengue Immunization Program that was launched 1 month before the May 2016 Presidential elections.

In a statement sent to COMELEC reporters, Garin said that there was no politics involved in the launching of the program since it was already part of the DOH programs against the Dengue Virus.  It could not have been political in any way since the programs were launched in schools and not nationally.  Garin added that during her stint, Dengue was a serious concern globally.

Newsmeph photo g

According to WHO data, the Philippines was at the top of the list in dengue incidences in 2013 and 2015 with over 200,000 cases being reported. 2014 also saw other countries experiencing a spate of dengue outbreaks.  DOH records show that in 2016 over 1000 people died from dengue and the more dangerous dengue hemorrhagic fever or DHF.

The COMELEC invitation for the hearing was a result of a case filed by the VACC claiming that the Dengue Immunization Program was used for political purposes.  Garin countered that it was Secretary Paulyn Ubial, her successor, who changed the program from being school based to one that is community based and expanded it to Cebu.  “If it was political, why did they expand it?- Garin added in her statement.

The hearing is slated for March 15 with former President Benigno Aquino having confirmed as well.

#Dengvaxia #Dengue #truthDengvaxia

This news was verified by NewsmePh:

PAO -liable for immunization scare

March 4, 2016 – The Public Attorney’s Office or the PAO should be held liable for causing the reduction in immunization according to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III “irresponsible comments created unnecessary panic and scared the public from getting children immunized”. Former Secretary Janette Garin also said that the investigations are being muddled and that instead of helping the government and the population, PAO has created hysteria and panic among the public resulting in the lowering of government offered free voluntary vaccinations.

The Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) was tasked by the DOJ to legally assist the parents of the alleged victims of Dengvaxia. PAO had insisted on their own findings that Dengvaxia was the main cause of the 40 patients they had autopsied. It was unclear whether the DOJ order allowed PAO to conduct medical proceeding on the victims. PAO Chief Acosta also showed the distribution of doses administered by the 2 previous and current secretaries in Congress. PAO showed that most of the alleged victims were injected second and third doses during the time of Secretary Paulyn Ubial who continued and expanded the Dengue immunization program. Congressmen chided the PAO chief for refusing to cooperate with the DOH-PGH team despite her public agreement to cooperate as requested by Senators. “Nagbago ang isip ko” (I changed my mind) was her reply in congress.

Congressman Jorge Banal questioned the expertise of the PAO’s forensic team led by Dr. Erfe, echoing the same sentiments as Senator J.V. Ejercito, and said that what PAO has been achieving is the erosion of trust and confidence of the public in the Department of Health and the UP-PGH investigative task force set-up by Secretary Duque.

Immunizations are down by 30% according to DOH data. “ Our programs are suffering as people are scared to have their children vaccinated even for preventable diseases like measles and polio according to Undersecretary Enrique Domingo.

Dr. Juliet Sio -Aguilar of the DOH –UP PGH established dengue task force of 10 specialists and pathologists who examined 14 cases that were referred to the DOH, all of which underwent tedious and meticulous study, stated that based on their findings there is no medical evidence linking the deaths to Dengvaxia. In fact 9 of the fatalities were known to have died from other causes, not related to Dengue. The 3 other cases were inconclusive.

PAO in its most recent public pronouncements made by Dr. Erwin Erfe said that there may be links to Dengvaxia of the alleged victims they autopsied, but admitted that these are inconclusive.

In a recent meeting between the DOJ, DOH and Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque , Secretary Aguirre said: “Erfe’s opinion on the Dengvaxia deaths should not be considered an “expert” opinion as he is not a qualified pathologist. We will get an international expert to help the government.”

The Philippines is now considered the leader in Dengue incidence in the Western Pacific Region with over 200,000 yearly cases and average of upwards of 500 deaths yearly from mostly children aged 4 to 15 years based on WHO and DOH data.

#Dengate #Dengvaxia #denguevaccine

This news was verified by NewsmePh


Boracay being drowned by tourist garbage!

The once pristine Philippine paradise island of Boracay is now beset by a garbage problem.  “We are smelling garbage and it is not good for the health of the children”- quipped a teacher whose school is located near the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) in Barangay Manoc-Manoc.  The source of the foul smell is the mountain of garbage brought to the MRF coming from the hotels and establishments in the islands – basically tourist garbage.

The DENR has stepped in and called the attention of Malay, Aklan Mayor Cicero Cawaling who is primarily responsible for the upkeep of the island.  DENR sources said that the MRF is a potential health risk not only to residents but to the visiting tourists as well.

In response, Mayor Cawaling has promised to empty the MRF and take the excess garbage out by barge to mainland Panay island for processing. The Mayor promised improvements in waste handling by the LGU after a June 22, 2017 visit by Secretary Cimatu.

Cimatu threatened that the Mayor may face charges under RA 9003 if the garbage problem is not addressed by the LGU.  “He may be liable for charges if this is not addressed immediately” added Secretary Cimatu.

Garbage has been a constant problem for Boracay having seen a growth in the establishments and hotels in the island.  Tourists, both local and international, continue to flock to Boracay island despite the hidden problem of waste disposal.

On a similar note, members of the House of Representatives were shocked to see the degradation of the island and has asked the Department of Tourism about its plans to keep Boracay from being destroyed.

This news is verified by NewsmePh




A Sugar Baron that supported the Presidential candidacy of former DILG Secretary Mar Roxas in the last elections warned Pepsi Cola Philippines. Manuel Lamata, President of the United Sugar Producers Federation of the Philippines said that they will launch a Boycott against Pepsi Cola for its use of HFCS or fructose sugar.

“We will attack Pepsi, they are not innocent! They (PEPSI) are idiots! Their product contains HFCS. If they do not sit and talk with the Sugar Alliance, we will launch a boycott and protest against their products”, threatened Lamata.

In a separate meeting in Malacanang Palace, Lamata shouted at several government officials claiming that the government is not protecting the sugar monopoly by allowing the entry of fructose sugar which is being used as an alternative sweetener for powdered coffee, powdered juice and softdrinks by multinational beverage companies like Pepsi.

In response, Secretary Pinol called the Negros Sugar Baron and his associates “spoiled brats” for how he acted during the meeting, and for accusing him of accepting bribes from beverage manufacturers which he denied. Lamata and his group gave the DA Secretary the moniker “Money Pinol”.

Pinol had held in abeyance the issuance of Sugar Order No. 3 which was released by the Sugar Regulatory Administration which is under the Department of Agriculture.

Because of the protection of the sugar cartel in the Philippines, sugar remains in the “protected list “ of Philippine products which hampers ASEAN Economic Integration. All members of ASEAN under the pact will engage in free trade across its borders and sugar is hampering its implementation.

Secretary Pinol stated that there is a need for change and modernization in how the sugar business is conducted in the Philippines. Philippine remains one of the highest priced in the world market. Former SRA head Rafael “Lito” Cosculluela said: “We need to accept the reality that Philippine sugar is highly priced. And if additional taxes are imposed on those who use it, the prices of products will increase resulting in less buyers and even lesser demand for the Sugar industry.

The Senate is now hearing the proposed excise tax on sugar sweetened beverage (SSB) which is seen to increase the cost of basic goods for blue collar and poor Filipinos who are the patrons of instant coffee, softdrinks and powdered juice drinks.

This news was verified:
People’s Tonight

Manuel Lamata threatens Pepsi Cola Philippines

Sugar Baron Manuel Lamata shouts at Duterte officials in Malacanang

Pepsi Cola Philippines threatened by Sugar Baron Manuel Lamata