Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's office hit back Thursday over reports that he flew to football matches on a luxury plane funded by a friend who has won many lucrative public tenders.

Hungary PM’s office hits back over football trips scandal

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By Agence France-Presse

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s office hit back Thursday over reports that he flew to football matches on a luxury plane funded by a friend who has won many lucrative public tenders.

Accusations of corruption over the trips amounted to “personal slander,” said his chief of staff Gergely Gulyas.

Orban “has always attended defining events for Hungarian sport,” Gulyas told reporters in Budapest, adding that the trips were made in a personal, not official, capacity.

The investigative Atlatszo.hu site reported Monday that Orban had used a luxury private jet to watch his favourite side MOL Vidi FC play in Bulgaria and probably also to attend World Cup games in Russia, including the final.

Atlatszo estimated the Austrian-registered Bombardier Global 6000 luxury jet’s value at 53 million euros ($62 million).

The site said that the ownership of the plane was unknown but that it was usually parked at Budapest airport.

Orban’s spokesman Bertalan Havasi later said that the premier was a regular guest of MOL Vidi owner and one of Hungary’s richest men, Istvan Garancsi.

The club is based in the prime minister’s birthplace of Szekesfehervar, 60 kilometres (37 miles) southwest of Budapest.

“Not a single forint” of taxpayer money is spent on Orban’s match flights, Havasi told the Nepszava paper on Monday.

Orban’s office denies claims of cronyism regarding Garancsi, who is often referred to as an oligarch.

But Orban’s opponents allege that Garancsi’s wealth has been amassed mostly through winning multi-million-euro public contracts thanks to his friendship with Orban.

Another news site, Index.hu, has suggested that in accepting the trips, Orban may have broken rules that forbid lawmakers from taking gifts whose value exceeds relatively modest parliamentary salaries.

Since the expose emerged, an opposition political party, Dialogue, said it planned to file a complaint with prosecutors over suspected corruption, as well as demand a parliamentary enquiry into Orban’s official personal wealth declaration.

Gulyas said Thursday the latest accusations were merely part of opposition campaigning before the European Parliament elections next May.

In power since 2010 the football-mad Orban, 55, has built dozens of publically-funded state-of-the-art stadia nationwide, including in the village of Felcsut where he grew up, and even abroad.

On Thursday, Orban, who played football for Felcsut during his first term as premier between 1998 and 2002, inaugurated a 9.5 million euro ($11 million) sports academy in Backa Topola in Serbia’s Vojvodina region where many ethnic-Hungarians live.

Orban’s critics regularly accuse him of squandering public funds on sport at the expense of neglecting other sectors like health and education.

Earlier this month the European Parliament voted to start steps to sanction Hungary over a series of controversial reforms that Brussels says undermine democracy.

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Kanya-kanyang diskarte LGU! Palace: COVID-19 testing no longer required for travelers

Malacañang on Saturday announced that it is no longer mandatory for travelers to undergo coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) testing and quarantine.

“Travelers shall no longer be required to undergo Covid-19 testing, except if the local government unit (LGU) of destination will make testing as a requirement prior to travel. Testing will be limited to RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) test,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a press statement.

However, travelers who exhibit symptoms upon arrival at their destination have to undergo quarantine, Roque said.

This developed after the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) approved on Friday the uniform travel protocols for land, air, and sea that need to be observed by all LGUs, he said.

The approved protocols, Roque said, were crafted by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) in close coordination with the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines, League of Provinces of the Philippines, League of Municipalities of the Philippines, and the League of Cities of the Philippines.

Despite the easing of restrictions for travelers, he said travelers should still follow minimum public health standards.

“Authorities shall continue to strictly implement the minimum public health standards, such as physical distancing, hand hygiene, cough etiquette, and the wearing of face masks and face shields across all settings,” Roque said.

He said the strict implementation of clinical and exposure assessment in all ports of entry and exit still needs to be observed.

The health assessment of passengers, supervised by medical doctors, will be mandatory upon entry into the port or terminal and exit at the point of destination, Roque said.

“On documentary requirements, the travel authority issued by the Joint Task Force Covid Shield and health certificates shall no longer be required,” he said.

However, authorized persons outside of residence (APORs) from national government agencies and their attached agencies must provide their identification card, travel order, and travel itinerary, Roque said.

“They must likewise pass symptom-screening at the ports of entry and exit,” he added.

One-stop shop application

Roque said the Department of Science and Technology’s (DOST) Safe, Swift, and Smart Passage (S-PaSS) Travel Management System will now be institutionalized as the “one-stop shop application or communication” for travelers.

“The StaySafe.ph System shall be utilized as the primary contact tracing system. Other existing contact tracing applications, such as Traze App, must be integrated with the StaySafe.ph System,” he said.

Roque said all ports and terminals must have sufficient isolation facilities.

All ports and terminals, he added, should also have a referral system so symptomatic travelers could be transferred to quarantine facilities, enabling the Bureau of Quarantine for airports or local health officials for LGUs to take over.

Roque said all buses in Metro Manila bound for the provinces are also required to use the Integrated Terminal Exchange as the central hub for transportation.

“At the option of the LGUs, they may provide transportation for all travelers who are transiting from one LGU to another in cases of arrivals at air and seaports to their end-point destinations,” he said.

Roque said the LGUs, DILG, DOST, the departments of health, tourism, and transportation, and the Philippine National Police should ensure the “smooth” implementation of the approved protocols. (PNA)

Status quo pa rin: Metro Manila to stay under GCQ in March

Metro Manila will remain under general community quarantine (GCQ) in March, Malacañang announced on Saturday.

President Rodrigo Duterte approved the new quarantine status that will be implemented next month, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in an announcement aired over state-run PTV-4.

Roque said GCQ would also be imposed in Apayao, Baguio City, Kalinga, Mt. Province, Batangas, Tacloban City, Iligan City, Davao City, and Lanao del Sur.

He said the rest of the country would stay under the least restrictive modified GCQ (MGCQ) from March 1 to 31.

“Lahat po ng mga lugar na hindi natin nabanggit ay nasa modified general community quarantine (All other areas we did not mention are placed under modified general community quarantine),” Roque said.

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), as well as the Metro Manila mayors, initially recommended the imposition of the most relaxed MGCQ in the entire Philippines in March.

Duterte, however, turned down the proposed nationwide shift to MGCQ until the government starts the rollout of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccines.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles on February 23 said the President is taking a “step-by-step” approach to the plan to place the entire country under MGCQ.

Nograles also said the Cabinet “100 percent” supports Duterte’s latest decision.

The IATF-EID would stick to the “month-to-month” assessment even if the government starts its mass immunization drive.

Duterte is set to lead the simple turnover rites of Covid-19 vaccines from China’s Sinovac Biotech on Sunday. (PNA)

Konting tulog na lang! 525,600 doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine arriving in PH on March 1

Around 525,600 doses of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccine from the United Kingdom’s AstraZeneca will be delivered to the Philippines on Monday (March 1), Malacañang announced on Saturday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the Philippines will receive the AstraZeneca vaccines through the Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) facility, a global initiative that guarantees access to Covid-19 vaccines worldwide.

“We are pleased to inform you that the Philippines will receive 525,600 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines on Monday, March 1, 2021, around noontime, as part of the first round of allocated doses from the COVAX facility,” Roque said in a press statement.

The AstraZeneca vaccines that will arrive in the Philippines form part of the 44 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine from COVAX to inoculate 20 percent of the country’s population, Roque said.

Roque thanked the World Health Organization (WHO), the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) for the delivery of Covid-19 vaccines developed by AstraZeneca.

The COVAX Facility is co-led by WHO, GAVI, and CEPI.

“We are grateful to everyone — from our medical front-liners to our fellow Filipinos and foreign partners — who stand by us in this challenging time. Together, we will heal and recover as one nation and one people,” Roque said.

In a text message, Senator Christopher Lawrence Go said President Rodrigo Duterte will also lead the turnover ceremony for the AstraZeneca vaccines.

The Philippines is set to receive some 44 million Covid-19 vaccine doses allocated by the COVAX Facility within the year.

The country is also expected to have access to up to 9.2 million AstraZeneca vaccines.

The Covid-19 vaccines developed AstraZeneca vaccines will be delivered just a day after the country is also scheduled to receive the first batch of Covid-19 vaccines from China’s Sinovac Biotech.

Duterte would lead on Sunday the simple turnover of 600,000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine. (PNA)

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