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Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Governor Andrew Cuomo Signs Legislation Legalizing Adult-Use Cannabis

Governor Cuomo Flickr Photo

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed legislation (S.854-A/A.1248-A) legalizing adult-use cannabis, fulfilling a key component of his 2021 State of the State agenda. The bill signing comes after the Governor, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie announced this past Sunday, March 28, that an agreement had been reached on the legislation. The bill establishes the Office of Cannabis Management to implement a comprehensive regulatory framework that covers medical, adult-use and cannabinoid hemp. The bill also expands New York State's existing medical marijuana and cannabinoid hemp programs. The legislation provides licensing for marijuana producers, distributors, retailers, and other actors in the cannabis market, and creates a social and economic equity program to assist individuals disproportionately impacted by cannabis enforcement that want to participate in the industry.

The development of an adult-use cannabis industry in New York State under this legislation has the potential to create significant economic opportunities for New Yorkers and the State. Tax collections from the adult-use cannabis program are projected to reach $350 million annually. Additionally, there is the potential for this new industry to create 30,000 to 60,000 new jobs across the State.

"This is a historic day in New York - one that rights the wrongs of the past by putting an end to harsh prison sentences, embraces an industry that will grow the Empire State's economy, and prioritizes marginalized communities so those that have suffered the most will be the first to reap the benefits." Governor Cuomo said. "This was one of my top priorities in this year's State of the State agenda and I'm proud these comprehensive reforms address and balance the social equity, safety and economic impacts of legal adult-use cannabis. I thank both the Leader and the Speaker, and the tireless advocacy of so many for helping make today's historic day possible."

The Governor has included legalizing adult-use cannabis in his last three budget proposals. 

The New York State Cannabis/Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act contains the following provisions: 

Establish the Office of Cannabis Management
The Office of Cannabis Management will be charged with enforcing a comprehensive regulatory framework governing medical, adult-use cannabinoid hemp. It will be governed by a five-member board, with three members appointed by the Governor and one appointment by each house. OCM will be an independent office operating as part of the New York State Liquor Authority.

Medical Cannabis
The legislation will allow people with a larger list of medical conditions to access medical marijuana, increase the number of caregivers allowed per patient, and permit home cultivation of medical cannabis for patients.

Adult-Use Cannabis
The legislation will create a two-tier licensing structure that will allow for a large range of producers by separating those growers and processors from also owning retail stores. The legislation creates licenses for producers and distributors, among other entities, and the legislation will implement strict quality control, public health and consumer protections. A social and economic equity program will facilitate individuals disproportionally impacted by cannabis enforcement, including creating a goal of 50% of licenses to go to a minority or woman owned business enterprise, or distressed farmers or service-disabled veterans to encourage participation in the industry.

The Bill implements a new cannabis tax structure that will replace a weight-based tax with a tax per mg of THC at the distributor level with different rates depending on final product type. The wholesale excise tax will be moved to the retail level with a 9 percent state excise tax. The local excise tax rate will be 4 percent of the retail price. Counties will receive 25% of the local retail tax revenue and 75 percent will go to the municipality.

Cannabinoid Hemp
The legislation permits the sale of hemp flower in the cannabinoid hemp program, and allows for smokeable forms only when adult use retail stores are operational.

Adult-Use Cannabis Tax Revenue
All cannabis taxes will be deposited in the New York state cannabis revenue fund. Revenue covers reasonable costs to administer the program and implement the law. The remaining funding will be split three ways:

  • 40 Percent to Education
  • 40 Percent to Community Grants Reinvestment Fund
  • 20 Percent to Drug Treatment and Public Education Fund

Municipal Opt-Out
Cities, towns, and villages may opt-out of allowing adult-use cannabis retail dispensaries or on-site consumption licenses by passing a local law by December 31, 2021 or nine months after the effective date of the legislation. They cannot opt-out of adult-use legalization.

Traffic Safety
The New York State Department of Health will work with institutions of higher education to conduct a controlled research study designed to evaluate methodologies and technologies for the detection of cannabis-impaired driving. After completion of the research study, DOH may create and implement rules and regulations to approve and certify a test for the presence of cannabis in drivers. 

The legislation includes additional funding for drug recognition experts and law enforcement to ensure safe roadways.

The use of cannabis by drivers will remain prohibited and will carry the same penalties as it does currently.

Personal Possession and Home Cultivation
The following conditions apply to growing cannabis at home and personal possession of cannabis outside the home:

  • Personal possession outside of the home: up to 3 ounces cannabis and 24 grams of cannabis concentrate
  • Home possession: amends limits of what is permitted in the home, which must be kept in a secure location away from children
  • Home grow: permitted under the bill subject to possession limits in 18 months after first adult-use sales begin for adult recreational use and subject to regulations of the Medical Program being promulgated no sooner than 6 months:
    • 3 mature plants and 3 immature plants for adults over 21
      • 6 mature plants and 6 immature plants maximum per household

Criminal Justice and Record Expungement
The cannabis penalty framework will be restructured to avoid the criminalization seen in prohibition. Reduced penalties will be implemented for possession and sale.

  • Creates automatic expungement or resentencing for anyone with a previous marijuana conviction that would now be legal under the law and provides necessary funding
  • Adds cannabis to the clean indoor air act which establishes a baseline on where cannabis can be smoked or vaped
  • Municipalities and local governments are permitted to make laws that are more restrictive than the CIAA. Contains various provisions to ensure that cannabis is treated as a lawful substance and to prevent discriminatory enforcement

Protections for the Use of Cannabis and Workplace Safety
Unlawful discrimination will be prohibited and workplace safety protections will be implemented.

Public Health and Education Campaign
OCM will establish a robust public health and education campaign and work with neighboring states and associations to coordinate actions and policies to protect regional health and safety. 

This legislation builds on years of work to understand and decriminalize cannabis for adult use. In 2018, the Department of Health, under Governor Cuomo's direction, conducted a multi-agency study, which concluded that the positive impacts of legalizing adult-use cannabis far outweighed the negatives. It also found that decades of cannabis prohibition have failed to achieve public health and safety goals and have led to unjust arrests and convictions particularly in communities of color. 

In 2019, Governor Cuomo signed legislation to decriminalize the penalties for unlawful possession of marijuana. The legislation also put forth a process to expunge records for certain marijuana convictions. Later that year, the Governor spearheaded a multi-state summit to discuss paths towards legalization of adult-use cannabis that would ensure public health and safety and coordinate programs regionally to minimize the cross-border movement of cannabis products.

Former Philippine Envoy to Libya is now Consul General in New York

Consul General Elmer G. Cato. PCGNY Photo.

New York – Journalist-diplomat, Elmer G. Cato, officially assumed as Consul General of the Republic of the Philippines in New York on March 30.

A career diplomat with the rank of Chief of Mission Class II, Consul General Cato succeeds Consul General Petronila P. Garcia who retired in January.

Consul General Cato arrived this afternoon from Libya where he served for two years as Chargé d’Affaires, e.p. and Head of Mission of the Philippine Embassy in Tripoli.

A journalist before joining the foreign service, Consul General Cato had served in various capacities in the Philippines and abroad in the past 22 years.

His first overseas posting was at the Permanent Mission of the Philippines to the United Nations from 2003 to 2010 where he also served as a member of the Philippine Delegation to the UN Security Council from 2004 to 2005.

Consul General Cato was assigned to the Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C. from 2012 until he volunteered to go to Iraq where he served as Chargé d’Affaires, e.p. and Head of Mission of the Embassy of the Philippines in Baghdad from 2015 to 2018.

At the Home Office, Consul General Cato served as Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary for Public Diplomacy and later for Strategic Communications during the terms of Foreign Affairs Secretaries Alan Peter S. Cayetano and Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. from 2018 to 2019.

During the term of Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. Del Rosario, Consul General Cato was designated Special Assistant for Special Projects at the Office of Administration; Director for Intelligence of the Intelligence and Security Unit under the Office of the Secretary; and Executive Director of the National Council on United Nations Peace Operations from 2010 to 2012.

Consul General Cato served as Special Assistant for Foreign Affairs Secretary Domingo L. Siazon, Jr. and Teofisto T. Guingona; spokesperson and Officer-in-Charge of the Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement; and as Officer in Charge of the Regional Consular Office in San Fernando and Clark Field, Pampanga. Consul General Cato is a recipient of the Gawad Mabini, one of the highest awards the Government of the Philippines can bestow on Filipino diplomats, for initiating the public-private partnership that led to the transfer of consular offices to shopping malls across the country.

Consul General Cato joined the Department of Foreign Affairs in 1998 after passing the Foreign Service Officers Examination of 1996. He also passed the Career Ministers Examination of 2013. Before joining the Foreign Service, Consul General Cato was a journalist for 17 years who started as a 16-year-old cub reporter. He was also an overseas worker in Jeddah and Jakarta.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Global Civil Society Reports on Widespread Ineffective Covid Response

Through a global webinar, global civil society platform CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness (CPDE) will be presenting its study World in Lockdown, Development on Hold: A special CPDE report on the (in)effectiveness of the Covid-19 response, on March 31, 2021, 9AM in Buenos Aires, 2PM in Paris, and 8PM Manila, via Zoom and Facebook Live.

Delivering the keynote address will be Dr. Michael Ryan, Executive Director of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Emergencies Programme, and presenting the study are CPDE Co-Chair Beverly Longid, CPDE Latin America and the Caribbean region’s Josefina Villegas, and independent researcher for the CPDE International Civil Society Organisations sector Catherine Turner.

Also gracing the event are Ulrika Modeer, Assistant Secretary General, Assistant Administrator, and Director of the Bureau of External Relations and Advocacy at the United Nations Development Programme, and Gabriella Fesus, Head of Social Inclusion and Protection, Health and Demography at the European Commission. They will speak on Covid-19 and its impact on implementing the effectiveness agenda at country level, and Making aid transparent, predictable and accountable to improve the effectiveness of the pandemic response, respectively.

Helen Holm, coordinator for Covid-19 response at the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), will then talk about applying the effective development cooperation principles in the pandemic response to get us back on track to Leaving No One Behind and delivering results. The discussions will be moderated by Justin Kilcullen, CPDE Co-Chair.

“We launched this initiative as an immediate response to the Covid-19 crisis, and as part of the platform’s commitment to work for effective development cooperation and contribute to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals,” CPDE Co-Chair Longid explains.

The event will feature common themes from 29 case studies spanning 33 countries conducted by five (5) regional and six (6) sectoral constituencies of CPDE from August to November 2020. These cover the socioeconomic impact of the pandemic that have stood out across all constituencies, the emerging trends of official development assistance (ODA), and the corresponding implications on effective development cooperation.

“Through this study carefully put together by our members and partners, CPDE hopes to raise awareness on the situation of grassroots communities and the civil society amidst the pandemic, and to support informed engagements with partner countries, development actors, and other stakeholders in making international cooperation more effective,” CPDE Co-Chair Kilcullen adds.

CPDE is an open platform that unites civil society organisations from around the world on the issue of effective development cooperation (EDC). It strives to make development more effective by reshaping the global aid architecture and empowering CSOs working on the ground.

It represents CSOs from six regions (Africa, Asia, Pacific, Europe, Middle East & North Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean), and eight sectors (Rural, Feminist Group, Indigenous Peoples, Faith-Based Organisations, International Civil Society Organisations, Youth, Labour, and Migrants and Diaspora).

To know more, visit and its special webpage on its Covid-19 engagements,


TBA Launches Virtual Cinemas on PVOD platform, TBA Play, in North America 

Manila, Philippines - TBA Studios, the Philippine film production company behind such heralded commercial successes as "Heneral Luna," "Women of the Weeping River," and "Write About Love"--to name but a few of its high-profile, twenty-plus film titles in the last seven years-- announced the launch of TBA Play, virtual cinemas on its premium video-on-demand (PVOD) platform, which launched Friday, March 26th, 2021 in North America, and launches on Friday, April 2, 2021 in Europe and the Middle East.

Last year on March 13th, at the start of the world pandemic, TBA Studios launched its video-on-demand (VOD) Platform on YouTube. Today, the platform has over 380,000+ subscribers. Now a year later, and with more than 25-plus film titles under its belt after seven years, TBA Studios is ready to roll with virtual cinemas on its PVOD platform. TBA Play allows audiences access to new release films, especially with theaters still closed or with restricted capacity. Often these films are made available alongside, or in place of a traditional release exhibited in movie theaters. 

The first titles to launch on TBA Play are “Write About Love” , a romance and a box-office hit in the Philippines with wide critical acclaim, “Us, At the End of the Year (Tayo Sa Huling Buwan Ng Taon)”, a romantic cult favorite with a hit soundtrack/song with over 18 million views on YouTube, and “How She Left Me (Kung Paano Siya Nawala)”, a unique romance with box office faves, Rhian Ramos and JM De Guzman. 

"We're just happy with every virtual solution or digital platform that enables our film titles to reach more audiences, locally and globally," says TBA CEO Eduardo A. Rocha. He adds, "We're proud of the unique yet universal stories that our writers and moviemakers tell through their films, and the more opportunities for their works to be seen, the better. It's a win-win situation." 

Tickets can be purchased at where advanced purchase is available now at an introductory price of $11.99.   Movies will unlock for viewing for 24-hours starting March 26, at which time the price goes up to $13.99.   All three (3) films can be purchased at the bundle price of $30.

TBA Studios is one of the leading film production and distribution companies in the Philippines. Armed with relentless passion to further grow the local film industry as well as to veer towards braver undertakings, the company dedicates itself to creating and marketing content that touches and inspires people's lives. Known for its wide range of award-winning, cinematic achievements that, include "Heneral Luna," "Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral" and "Birdshot", TBA Studios continues with its commitment to produce, acquire and/or represent high-caliber entertainment--regardless of whether Filipino or foreign language films--that push and break boundaries in the service of the new generation of audiences worldwide.

Governor Cuomo Announces New Yorkers 30 Years of Age and Older Will Be Eligible to Receive COVID-19 Vaccine

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a new expansion of COVID-19 vaccine eligibility in New York. Beginning Tuesday, March 30 at 8 a.m., all New Yorkers 30 years of age and older will be eligible to receive the vaccine. Beginning April 6, universal eligibility goes into effect and all New Yorkers 16 years of age and older will be eligible to receive the vaccine. 

Additionally, the Governor announced more than 2 million total COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered at New York State-run and FEMA-assisted mass vaccination sites. Statewide, more than 9 million total doses have been administered across all vaccination sites. 171,419 doses have been administered across the state's vast distribution network in the last 24 hours, and more than 1.3 million doses have been administered over the past seven days. Delivery of the week 16 allocation begins mid-week.

"Today we take a monumental step forward in the fight to beat COVID. Beginning March 30, all New Yorkers age 30 or older will be able to be vaccinated, and all New Yorkers age 16 or older will be eligible on April 6, well ahead of the May 1 deadline set by the White House," Governor Cuomo said. "As we continue to expand eligibility, New York will double down on making the vaccine accessible for every community to ensure equity, particularly for communities of color who are too often left behind. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but until we get there it is more important than ever for each and every New Yorker to wear a mask, socially distance and follow all safety guidelines."

New York's vast distribution network and large population of eligible individuals still far exceed the supply coming from the federal government. Due to limited supply, New Yorkers are encouraged to remain patient and are advised not to show up at vaccination sites without an appointment.

The 'Am I Eligible' screening tool has been updated for individuals with comorbidities and underlying conditions with new appointments released on a rolling basis over the next weeks. New Yorkers can use the following to show they are eligible:

  • Doctor's letter, or
  • Medical information evidencing comorbidity, or
  • Signed certification       

New Yorkers seeking to determine eligibility and schedule an appointment at a state-run mass vaccination site, can visit the 'Am I Eligible' website. New Yorkers may also call their local health department, pharmacy, doctor, or hospital for additional information and to schedule appointments where vaccines are available.                

The COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker Dashboard is available to update New Yorkers on the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. The New York State Department of Health requires vaccinating facilities to report all COVID-19 vaccine administration data within 24 hours; the vaccine administration data on the dashboard is updated daily to reflect the most up-to-date metrics in the state's vaccination effort.          

New Yorkers who suspect fraud in the vaccine distribution process can now call 833-VAX-SCAM (833-829-7226) toll-free or email the state Department of Health at Hotline staff will route complaints to the appropriate investigative agencies to ensure New Yorkers are not being taken advantage of as the State works to vaccinate the entire eligible population. 

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Philippines | Metro Manila and nearby provinces placed under one-week ECQ – Palace

“Dahil nga po sa napakataas na [dami ng] mga tao, mga kababayan nating nahahawa ngayon ng COVID-19 dahil na rin dito sa mga bagong variant, inaprubahan po ng ating Presidente ang rekomendasyon ng inyong IATF na ilagay muli sa Enhanced Community Quarantine or ECQ ang National Capital Region, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, at Rizal or ang tinatawag nating Greater Manila Area.”

This was the announcement made by Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque Jr. on Saturday night, March 27, as the national government’s response to the growing surge in new COVID-19 cases, which is happening not only in the Philippines but in many countries as well, because of the new variants. 

The ECQ will be effective on Monday, March 29, 2021 at 12:01 AM until April 4, 2021, said Secretary Roque.

The Palace official and concurrent IATF spokesperson said that with the ECQ, movement will be limited to accessing essential goods and services or doing essential activities or work. Because of this, Secretary Roque stressed that public transportation would continue, however, with lowered capacity, which the Department of Transportation will determine and announce in the coming days. 

Essential and priority construction projects, public or private, will be allowed to operate following guidelines that will be released by the Department of Public Works and Highways, said Secretary Roque. 

“Ang pagtitipun-tipon or gathering ng mahigit sampung katao sa labas ng kanilang mga pamamahay ay ipinagbabawal po. Pinagbabawal nga po natin ang lahat ng mass gathering. Pati po yung pinayagan nating simba, bawal na po muli,” Sec. Roque said. 

Also on gatherings, the Cabinet official added that for the conduct of weddings, baptisms, and funerals, only members of the immediate household will be allowed to attend, but not exceeding 10 people. 

“Mas pinaigting din po ang oras ng curfew sa Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, Rizal at NCR mula 6pm hanggang 5am,” said Roque. He clarified though that Authorized Persons Outside of their Residences, workers, cargo vehicles and public transportation are not covered by the curfew. Also, Roque said that travel pass will no longer be required. 

In addition, the Palace spokesperson asked the public to bring their quarantine pass from last year, if available, when going out. If this document is no longer available, the public just have to explain to the authorities the necessity of leaving their home or residence. Roque further said that the local government units (LGUs) won’t probably distribute quarantine passes given the limited time period of the ECQ. 

Roque further said that malls will remain open only for essential establishments like groceries, pharmacies, and hardware stores. Meanwhile, restaurant operations will be limited to take-out and delivery. “Kahit ano na pong dine-in, maski al fresco, hindi na po pupwede,” Roque quipped.

“Kasama rin po sa mga hakbang na gagawin natin ang parallel implementation at pagpapaigting ng vaccination efforts sa high burden areas, kasama na po dyan ang Metro Manila, Laguna, Cavite, Rizal at Bulacan at kasama na rin po dyan ang Cebu City at ang Davao City,” said Sec. Roque. 

Accordingly, Roque said that with the ECQ in place, the national government, other government agencies, and LGUs will implement steps to intensify prevention, detection, isolation, and treatment. 

In terms of prevention, Sec. Roque said that the National Task Force Against COVID-19 (NTF), relevant government agencies, and LGUs are to implement strict compliance and adherence to the minimum public health standards (MPHS) and safety protocols. 

For intensified case detection, Roque said that Dharavi-like centers will be established in communities for active case finding, testing, contact tracing, and isolating. To ensure swift detection of cases and tracing of close contacts, Roque mentioned that the IATF has approved the procurement of Rapid Antigen Test Kits approved by the Food and Drug Administration and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine for surveillance. 

The NTF was also directed to set indicators and weekly targets, while LGUs must have a scorecard with clear targets set for their localities, said Roque.

Philippine Consulate General Honors Distinguished Filipino Women in New York

(Top-bottom, L-R) The 2021 Distinguished Filipino Women Angela Perez, Diana Kris Navarro, Rechelle Balanzat, Diane Paragas, and Joy Lim Nakrin receive their Plaque of Appreciation from Deputy Consul General Kerwin Tate. NYPCG Photo.

New York – In celebration of National Women’s Month, the Philippine Consulate General in New York honored and featured five remarkable and accomplished Filipino-American women – an entrepreneur, a software engineer, a White House media specialist, an award-winning director/producer, and an Emmy-nominated news anchor – at a virtual event dubbed as “An Evening with Distinguished Filipino Women” on Thursday, 18 March 2021.

The women powerhouse, comprised of Juliette’s CEO, Founder Rechelle Balanzat, Tumblr software engineer Diana Kris Navarro, White House Press Assistant Angela Perez, “Yellow Rose” film director/producer Diane Paragas, and NBC10 Boston and NECN anchor/reporter Joy Lim Nakrin, shared their inspiration in choosing their respective careers. They also related the challenges and opportunities they faced personally and professionally as Filipino-American women in breaking glass ceilings, making their voices heard, and achieving success in their chosen fields.

News anchor Ms. Nakrin, who moderated the panel discussion, acknowledged that holding the Distinguish Filipino Women Forum during this time when Asian-American communities are under attack is an important way to honor Philippine heritage, history and culture, embrace Filipino-American identity, as well as strengthen and empower Filipino women.

Expressing their views on the recent string of anti-Asian attacks happening nationwide, the panelists expressed fear and sadness over the incidents. They called on the Fil-Am community to get together, support and protect each other and make their voices heard. Acknowledging that this kind of racism against Asians has been a persistent issue in our history, Ms. Perez also called on the community to maintain a sense of solidarity among Asian American women and with other minorities to combat racism and sexism incidents. For her part and as a member of the film community, Ms. Paragas expressed that she is motivated to make sure that our stories are told and get the coverage that Filipino-Americans deserve.

When asked how their being Filipino helped them in their career when they grew up in predominantly non-Filipino areas in the US, Ms. Paragas, who grew up in Texas, related her years of looking for financing of “Yellow Rose” and asking permission from “white Hollywood” who deemed the film as too small and too niche. It was only when she reached out to the Filipino community who knew inherently the worthiness of the story that the film was made. She was able to get a grant from ABS CBN through a competition and from individuals investors who are Filipino Americans.

Ms. Navarro, on the other hand, said that she was born in New Jersey where she spent her weekends surrounded by a community of Filipino housekeepers and where Filipino stores, restaurants, and bread houses are aplenty. On weekdays, she lived with her mother who worked as a live-in housekeeper for an affluent family in Westchester County, where she also attended school. Growing up straddling two different spectrums of society has instilled in her a desire to do or provide something worthwhile for the Filipino community that raised her.

Stressing that she has always been connected to her Filipino roots, Ms. Balanzat said that what keeps her going is the assurance that her close-knit Filipino family is always there ready to support her despite not being together constantly.

Ms. Perez recounted that growing up in a predominantly white space with an Asian face which is neither Chinese nor Japanese, and with Spanish-sounding surname prompted a sense of “impostor syndrome”, questioning herself whether she really belonged or was meant to be in that space. She underscored that talking to others with the same experiences and hearing her superior White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki say, “You belong here. You deserve to be here. Don’t let anyone tell you any different” have helped her come to terms with the sense of belonging and existing as she pursues her career.

Asked what they can advise to their fellow Filipino American women, Ms. Balanzat and Ms. Navarro highlighted the importance of embracing the Fil-Am community to forge ahead. Rechelle quoted that “If you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go with others.” Diana imparted that when people pit you against a person who looks like you in a room, “Find your people. Find your community. Whenever I wanted to quit or think the whole world is against me, there has always been a community that helped me get to where I am today.”

Angela conveyed that “We didn’t get here without deciding to forge our own unique path. If there is something you are interested in that seems very niche or you don’t see a lot of Filipino women in, don’t let that keep you from doing it. You’ll never know where you’ll end up.”

Plaques of Appreciation were given by Deputy Consul General Kerwin Orville Tate to the 5 distinguished Filipino women for their exemplary achievements in their respective fields, serving as an inspiration for the Filipino-American community and Filipino women worldwide.

The Distinguished Filipino Women event is held by the Philippine Consulate General in New York annually to honor and feature notable Filipino and Filipino-American women who continue to raise the image of Filipinos in the United States.

Governor Cuomo Announces Launch of Excelsior Pass to Help Fast-Track Reopening of Businesses and Entertainment Venues Statewide

Governor Cuomo Press Office Photo

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on March 26 announced the launch of Excelsior Pass — a free, voluntary platform developed in partnership with IBM, which utilizes proven, secure technology to confirm an individual's recent negative PCR or antigen test result or proof of vaccination to help fast-track the reopening of businesses and event venues in accordance with New York State Department of Health guidelines. Similar to a mobile airline boarding pass, individuals will be able to either print out their pass or store it on their smartphones using the Excelsior Pass Wallet app. Each Pass will have a secure QR code, which participating businesses and venues can scan using a companion app to verify proof of COVID-19 negative test results or proof of vaccination. An individual's data is kept secure and confidential at all times.

As part of this initial launch, participating New Yorkers may choose to use Excelsior Pass to verify their COVID-19 vaccination or negative test results as needed to gain entry to major stadiums and arenas, wedding receptions, or catered and other events above the social gathering limit. Interested New Yorkers can opt in to use Excelsior Pass and learn more here; interested businesses can opt in and learn more here

Major venues have already announced they will begin utilizing this technology in the coming weeks, including Madison Square Garden in New York City beginning next week and the Times Union Center in Albany. Beginning April 2, Excelsior Pass will expand to smaller arts, entertainment and event venues. 

"New Yorkers have proven they can follow public health guidance to beat back COVID, and the innovative Excelsior Pass is another tool in our new toolbox to fight the virus while allowing more sectors of the economy to reopen safely and keeping personal information secure," Governor Cuomo said. "The question of 'public health or the economy' has always been a false choice — the answer must be both. As more New Yorkers get vaccinated each day and as key public health metrics continue to regularly reach their lowest rates in months, the first-in-the-nation Excelsior Pass heralds the next step in our thoughtful, science-based reopening."

New York State is the first state in the U.S. to formally launch this potentially transformational technology. Prior to its launch, two successful pilot demonstrations were held in recent weeks, along with a beta test where thousands of New Yorkers participated in a limited roll out of the technology to provide feedback on user interface and results. 

Interested New Yorkers can download the Excelsior Pass Wallet app for Android here and for iOS here

Interested businesses can download the Excelsior Pass Scanner app for Android here and for iOS here.

Steve LaFleche, General Manager, IBM Public and Federal Markets, said, "IBM is proud to support the State of New York with its efforts to apply innovative technologies to help residents and communities respond to COVID-19. In choosing a flexible and accessible tool that places security and privacy at its core, the state is modeling for the rest of the country how new, technology-enabled approaches can help safely reinvigorate economies while also striving to protect public health."

Excelsior Pass is built on IBM's Digital Health Pass solution and is designed to enable the secure verification of health credentials such as test results and vaccination records without the need to share underlying medical and personal information. The technology is flexible and built to scale, allowing other states to join and help foster a safer, trusted transition to a post-pandemic reality. The pass can also be printed and is complementary to other types of proof that patrons can use, reducing any barriers to usage.

A special emphasis has been placed on the protection of an individual's privacy. Secure technologies, like blockchain and encryption, are woven throughout Excelsior Pass to help protect the data, making it verifiable and trusted. No private health data is stored or tracked within the apps. Excelsior Pass can be used to voluntarily show a QR code as proof of COVID-19 vaccination or negative test result via a digital smartphone wallet or printed credential without sharing underlying personal health details.

Multiple security systems are in place to ensure the integrity of personal health information. Excelsior Pass was designed with equity and equal access at the forefront. With multi-language access, a robust Help Desk, and multiple ways to use Excelsior Pass — whether you have a smartphone or not — New York is committed to ensuring that all New Yorkers can participate in the safe, convenient and responsible reopening of our economy.

The following set of labs have committed to rapid reporting of COVID test results to the State Department of Health's Electronic Clinical Laboratory Reporting System (ECLRS), which will help ensure that Excelsior Pass users are able to receive their testing results in the required window of time before an event: Acutis Diagnostics, Aegis Sciences Corporation, BioReference Laboratories, Boston Heart Diagnostics, Broad Institute, Cayuga Medical Center, Clarity Lab Solutions, Lenco Diagnostic Laboratories, The Mount Sinai Hospital's Center for Clinical Laboratories, Northwell Health, Quest Diagnostics, Rapid Reliable Testing and UR Medicine Labs. The State continues to work with other labs and rapid testing sites to expand this list of partners and expedite reporting so users have timely, accurate results to participate in congregate economic and social activities.

Mayor de Blasio, First Lady McCray, Borough President Eric Adams and Family of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Rename the Brooklyn Municipal Building in Her Honor

New York City Hall Press Office Photo

NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray on March 15 was joined by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and the family of late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to rename the Brooklyn Municipal Building the Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Municipal Building.

"Today we honor a true daughter of Brooklyn: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg " said MayorBill de Blasio. "Justice Ginsburg fought for justice and equality her entire life. May her memory, and this building, inspire generations of New Yorkers to stand up, speak out and make our country a better place for all who call it home."

"Justice Ginsburg's legacy of leadership and activism has inspired thousands of women to further their education, and serve with distinction and excellence," said First Lady Chirlane McCray. "A daughter of Brooklyn, she spent her career fighting for gender equity and standing up for women's rights. Her spirit will live on in this building, and generations of women and girls will continue her fight for equality and justice for all."

"Almost three years ago, we launched a campaign to re-name the Brooklyn Municipal Building in honor of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a proud daughter of Brooklyn and a legal trailblazer. Her tireless advocacy throughout her career on behalf of the marginalized in our society is an enduring example to us all. While she is no longer with us, her legacy shines bright in the millions and millions of lives she changed for the better. Thanks to this re-naming, generations of Brooklynites and New Yorkers will learn about her achievements — and know that they too can carry the baton she has passed to us for the next leg of our march toward a more just, equitable society," said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.

"It is an honor to participate in the renaming of Brooklyn Municipal Building for my mother, Ruth Bader Ginsburg," said Jane Ginsburg. "A daughter of Brooklyn, she was born here 88 years ago today. Brooklyn institutions shaped my mother's intellectual development. Not just its public schools, but also the public library, the Brooklyn Museum, and especially the Brooklyn Academy of Music. For all the family, I thank you for this grand event."

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was born in Flatbush, Brooklyn on March 15, 1933 and went on to graduate from James Madison High School in 1950. In 1993, she become the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court, serving until her death in September 2020. On the bench, she was known for her deep sense of justice and fairness, fighting for women's equality among other issues. New Yorkers of every borough are better off because of her service to this country.

The Brooklyn Municipal Building, built in 1924, is located at 210 Joralemon Street in downtown Brooklyn. Newly installed plaques honoring the late Justice Ginsburg are located on both sides of the building's main entrance. Borough President Eric Adams first called for the renaming of the building after Justice Ginsburg in 2018.

Thursday, March 25, 2021


Ma-Yi Theater Company is pleased to announce a new $5K micro-grant program that is open to New York City-based BIPOC, transgendered, and disabled artists and creatives. The micro-grant was established in response to the continued COVID-19 crisis and the prolonged shut-down of live theater and events. Applications are open to a wide variety of BIPOC, transgendered, and disabled artists, arts workers, and creatives including designers, actors, directors, playwrights, poets, musicians, choreographers, dancers, painters, sculptors, video artists, etc. Ten awards of $500 each will be awarded.


The micro-grant fund was established through the generosity of Ma-Yi’s friends at Play-Per View, who presented an online reading of Carla Ching’s Revenge Porn on February 13, 2021. The proceeds from that reading benefitted Ma-Yi and all funds raised are being redistributed through the micro-grant program. The establishment of the micro-grant fund would not be possible without the generosity of individuals who purchased tickets to the reading and made additional donations to the fund. Ma-Yi would also like to acknowledge Edward Bok Lee for his generous support of the micro-grant. 


Applications will open on March 29, 2021, and must be submitted by April 9, 2021. Winners will be notified by April 16, 2021, and a public announcement of winners will be on April 19, 2021. Application guidelines and requirements are available online at

About Ma-Yi Theater Company

Founded in 1989, Ma-Yi Theater Company (Ralph B. Peña, Producing Artistic Director) is a Drama Desk, Lortel, and Obie Award-winning, Off-Broadway not-for-profit organization whose primary mission is to develop and produce new and innovative plays by Asian American writers. Since its founding, Ma-Yi has distinguished itself as one of the country’s leading incubators of new work shaping the national discourse about what it means to be Asian American today. The Ma-Yi Writers Lab, a signature program founded in 2004, is the largest resident company of Asian-American playwrights ever assembled. The Lab emboldens a new generation of Asian American artists to voice their experiences. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ma-Yi launched Ma-Yi Studios, a digital streaming platform, and live capture studio.

Monday, March 22, 2021

The GFN Channel To Launch Three New Fil-Am Shows Via Live Stream

San Francisco, CA – The GFN Channel proudly announces the release of three new shows premiering this March. The three shows all premier online during the last week of this month, starting with Real Talk with Sabrina Wong on March 25th, Go Pinoy! Show! on March 27th, and Kabayan Seattle on March 29th. These will stream on The GFN Channel’s Facebook page at

Arnold Pedrigal, Founder and Executive Producer of The Global Filipino Network Channel, states, “We are very excited to launch these shows that cater not only to Filipino-American viewers, but also to our fellow kababayan around the world”.

“We are very lucky that streaming technology now enables global reach, and we are no longer limited to local areas,” he notes.

The GFN Channel created this streaming channel late last year 2020, in the midst of the raging Covid-19 pandemic that forced the whole world stranded at home with the global enforcement of shelter-in-place.

Due to the pandemic, people have become accustomed to watching videos online. Many livestreaming materials have become valuable sources of information that complements and augments traditional media such as television, radio and podcasts.

The GFN Channel’s online programs’ mission is to convey socially impactful messages and highlight various aspects of the Filipino community including arts and culture, lifestyle, health and wellness, entrepreneurship and professional development, and community-building.

Real Talk with Sabrina Wong is a program that caters to all walks of life and features discussion of current events, contemporary issues, business, lifestyle and fashion from different parts of the world. Host Sabrina Wong, a former commercial and print model in Asia, will focus on self-improvement, empowerment of striving businesses and raising awareness of important issues. According to Sabrina, she hopes to “do what I do best, and that is a show about, and with, everyday people". The show is based in the San Francisco Bay Area and premieres March 25, Thursday at 7pm PDT (March 26, Friday at 10am, Manila time).

GO PINOY! Show! is a pinoy-centric talk show/magazine co-produced by OnQ Talent and The GFN Channel. The show consists of pre-recorded performances and live interviews hosted by Don Mike Mendoza, Artistic Director of La Ti Do, Lora Olaes Nicolas, Actor & Cicero Oca, Talent Manager @OnQNY. The hosts hope the show will bring attention to how Filipino and Filipino-American artists are faring during the COVID-19 pandemic. They also hope this new creative collaboration - Go Pinoy! Show! and their collective voices - provide joy to the whole world, promote camaraderie among global Filipino artists, and raise funds for Filipino artists in need and deeply affected by COVID-19. The show is produced in New York City and premieres March 27, Saturday at 8:30pm EDT (March 28, Sunday at 8:30am, Manila time).

Kabayan Seattle is a weekly online talk show that highlights trending Filipino community awareness in the metro-Seattle area and across the globe. Hosted by Filipino-Americans Maricres Valdez Castro and Jonah Konop, the show shares inspiring stories from fellow kababayan in their communities, discusses lifestyle topics and upcoming local events. The show is based in Seattle and premieres March 29, Monday at 8pm PDT (March 30, Tuesday at 11am, Manila time).

Several programs currently produced and streamed by The GFN Channel include:
- Vilma, Live in LA! hosted by Vilma de Ramos (produced in Los Angeles)
- Lakbay Ng Buhay hosted by Ronnie Lazala and Bonnie Ball Mendoza (produced in San Francisco and Dubai)
- Upward Living hosted by Michelle Chan and Mars Catan (produced in Manila)
- Pure Wellness hosted by Dr. Jasmine Therese Esguerra (produced in Hawaii)
- Fast Forward hosted by Christina Laskowski (produced in Silicon Valley, California)
- Sari-Sari Stories by Sabrina and Marconi Calindas (produced in SF and Palm Springs) - Season Ended

A few other shows are planned to premiere in April. One of them is The NorCal Kababayan Show, a spin-off of the Facebook group with the same name - created by Zabrina Cordova who also will host the show along with Marjory Lualhati.

About The Global Filipino Network (GFN) Channel
The GFN Channel is a community-based, purpose-driven online channel founded by Arnold Pedrigal that produces socially impactful, educational, and inspiring programs to serve the global Filipino community, delivered through live streaming via social media platforms. The GFN Channel is one of the three main projects of Global Filipino Network, a non-profit organization based in California.