Senate Minority Floor Leader Frankiln Drilon warned that the Duterte government should brace the impact of an impending economic recession after the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) failed to address the worsening health crisis brought by the global coronavirus pandemic.

Palpak! Drilon says IATF failed to address COVID crisis as recession looms

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By JOHN CARLO M. CAHINHINAN

Senate Minority Floor Leader Frankiln Drilon warned that the Duterte government should brace the impact of an impending economic recession after the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) failed to address the worsening health crisis brought by the global coronavirus pandemic.

In an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC), Drilon advised the country’s economic managers that next six months “would be crucial in setting up the stage for economic recovery.”

Drilon stressed that strategies implemented by IATF to avert an impending recession have failed, citing the pandemic’s multiple impacts including surging unemployment and involuntary hunger that hit 5.2 million Filipino families.

“The IATF has failed. Let’s call a spade a spade. Look at where we are today: 70,764 Filipinos were affected as of yesterday, deaths running to 1,837, 5 million of our people unemployed, 40 percent of our MSMEs closed, and, the worst, 5.2 million Filipino families suffered hunger in the past three months,” said Drilon.

The Senate official cited the latest Social Weather Station (SWS) survey, wherein 20.9 percent or an estimated 5.2 million of Filipino families experienced involuntary hunger at least once in the past three months—the highest hunger rate since September 2014.

Drilon stressed that it does not help that Health Secretary Francisco Duque III “lacks the credibility to be able to command people to do things.”

“He cannot influence decisions,” said Drilon.

Meanwhile, Drilon said the Philippine economy is facing a recession due to the expected contractions of the economy for the first two quarters.

The Philippine economy contracted by 0.2% during the first quarter and the forecast for the second quarter is even worse, he noted.

The economists define recession as involving economic contractions for two succeeding quarters.

“This means that the next six months will be a question of how to survive. They say that to survive in today’s situation is already a success. We must be able to survive so that we can set the stage for economic recovery,” said Drilon.

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Chinese cyber-espionage unit on US hacking spree: report

At least 30,000 US organizations including local governments have been hacked in recent days by an “unusually aggressive” Chinese cyber-espionage campaign, according to a computer security specialist.

The campaign has exploited recently discovered flaws in Microsoft Exchange software, stealing email and infecting computer servers with tools that let attackers take control remotely, Brian Krebs said in a post at his cyber security news website.

“This is an active threat,” White House spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said when asked about the situation during a press briefing.

“Everyone running these servers needs to act now to patch them. We are concerned that there are a large number of victims,” she added.

After Microsoft released patches for the vulnerabilities on Tuesday, attacks “dramatically stepped up” on servers not yet updated with security fixes, said Krebs, who cited unnamed sources familiar with the situation.

“At least 30,000 organizations across the United States — including a significant number of small businesses, towns, cities and local governments — have over the past few days been hacked by an unusually aggressive Chinese cyber espionage unit that’s focused on stealing email from victim organizations,” Krebs wrote in the post.

He reported that insiders said hackers have “seized control” of thousands of computer systems around the world using password-protected software tools slipped into systems.

Microsoft said early this week that a state-sponsored hacking group operating out of China is exploiting previously unknown security flaws in its Exchange email services to steal data from business users.

The company said the hacking group, which it has named “Hafnium,” is a “highly skilled and sophisticated actor.”

Hafnium has in the past targeted US-based companies including infectious disease researchers, law firms, universities, defense contractors, think tanks, and NGOs.

In a blog post on Tuesday, Microsoft executive Tom Burt said the company had released updates to fix the security flaws, which apply to on-premises versions of the software rather than cloud-based versions, and urged customers to apply them.

“We know that many nation-state actors and criminal groups will move quickly to take advantage of any unpatched systems,” he added at the time.

Microsoft said the group was based in China but operated through leased virtual private servers in the United States, and that it had briefed the US government.

Beijing has previously hit back at US accusations of state-sponsored cyber theft. Last year it accused Washington of smears following allegations that Chinese hackers were attempting to steal coronavirus research.

In January, US intelligence and law enforcement agencies said Russia was probably behind the massive SolarWinds hack that shook the government and corporate security, contradicting then-president Donald Trump, who had suggested China could be to blame.

Microsoft said Tuesday the Hafnium attacks “were in no way connected to the separate SolarWinds-related attacks.” (AFP)

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