NTC’s shutdown order has no immediate impact on ABS-CBN workers — DOLE

Robie de Guzman   •   May 6, 2020   •   522

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Wednesday said that the shutdown of ABS-CBN Corporation’s broadcast operations would not have an “immediate” impact on the employment of its workers.

In a statement, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III explained that the cease and desist order issued by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to ABS-CBN does not extinguish the company’s existence.

“The issuance of the cease and desist order does not have an immediate impact on the employment of its employees. It does not automatically extinguish the corporate existence of any company,” Bello said.

He also said there are legal remedies available, and that all workers “continue to be employed,” and “remain entitled to all labor standards.”

“Paramount is the protection of the rights and the promotion of the welfare of all workers, particularly those of ABS-CBN,” Bello said.

Bello said he trusts that the issue will be resolved based on applicable laws, rules, and regulations.

The NTC on Tuesday ordered the ABS-CBN to halt its broadcast operations after its legislative franchise expired on May 4.

ABS-CBN’s TV and radio stations went off the air on Tuesday night in compliance with the order.

Bello says no to use of OFW funds to aid displaced migrant workers

Robie de Guzman   •   July 1, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello III has rejected calls to use the trust fund being managed by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to provide for the emergency needs of Filipino migrant workers displaced by the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

“They are sending us more than $30 billion a year. Nakakatulong sa ekonomiya natin. Kaya naman, for once, pay back naman tayo. ‘Wag nating galawin yung pera nila,” Bello said in a statement issued on Tuesday.

The OWWA earlier asked for a P5 billion supplemental budget from Congress to prolong its fund’s sustainability as it warned of a “largely looming” bankruptcy should it continue to spend for the food, accommodation, and transportation of repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFW) beyond 2021.

At a Senate hearing last week, OWWA chief Hans Leo Cacdac said the agency’s P18.79-billion fund is expected to be reduced to P10 billion by the end of this year, and plunge below P1 billion by the end of 2021 should OFWs continue to be displaced and repatriated.

Cacdac said OWWA has so far spent more than P800 million for the repatriation, accommodation and cash assistance for returning OFWs.

Bello said OWWA funds should be spent more on its members’ needs, such as for livelihood or their children’s education.

“Dapat gobyerno ang magbigay ng pera para matiyak natin na lahat ng kailangan ng ating mga OFW ay matugunan natin… Bakit naman, for the first time na hihingi naman sila ng tulong, nangangailangan sila ng tulong, bakit naman kailangan nating galawin yung pondo nila?… ‘Wag natin gamitin ang pera na ‘yan sa panahong ito,” the labor chief said.

“Government has to take extra steps in order to assure additional budget to help our OFWs,” he added.

“Huwag nating hayaan na maramdaman ng OFW na tinitipid sila sa kabila ng napakalaki nilang naitulong sa ekonomiya natin in the good and in the best of times,” he further stated.

Bello said around 63,000 Filipino workers have already been brought home while about 90,000 others remain stranded in other countries and are awaiting repatriation.

NTC orders shutdown of ABS-CBN subsidiary Sky Cable, TV Plus channels

Marje Pelayo   •   July 1, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) on Tuesday (June 30) hit media giant ABS-CBN Corp. with another big blow after it issued another cease and desist order to shutdown the station’s subsidiary channels.

The orders signed by NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba covered the operation of Sky Cable and  the network’s other channels on TVPlus.

The regulatory body argued that the other platforms should also be closed because these were also covered by the CDO the agency issued on May 5.

Aside from the shutdown, the NTC also gave Sky Cable 10 days to explain why the radio frequencies assigned to it should not be recalled for lack of franchise.

“Upon the expiration of RA (Republic Act) 7969, Sky Cable Corporation no longer has a valid and subsisting congressional franchise to install, operate or maintain a Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS) Service,” the order read.

Likewise, the NTC ordered the network to refund its subscribers “those amounts representing unconsumed prepaid loads, deposits on subscriber equipment and devices, deposit or advance payment in monthly charges for postpaid subscribers, if any, charges collected from new applicants for DBS service, and other charges collected.”

In a statement, Sky Cable said it will comply with the NTC order.

“Sky Cable Corporation complies with the cease and desist order (CDO) issued by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) stopping the company from operating its direct broadcast satellite service immediately,” the firm said in a statement.

“We will refund all unconsumed prepaid loads and advance postpaid payments. We appeal to our SKYdirect subscribers and partners for understanding and patience as we undergo this process,” it added.

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While ABS-CBN argued that there was no mention of Channel 43 in the May 5 shutdown order, the network immediately stopped its digital TV transmission in Metro Manila using the said channel in compliance with the alias CDO recently issued by the NTC.

“While channel 43 is not mentioned in NTC’s cease and desist order (CDO) of May 5, 2020, and it is ABS-CBN’s informed understanding that channel 43 is not included in the CDO, digital TV transmission in Metro Manila using channel 43 will cease tonight (June 30), consistent with the intent of the alias CDO,” ABS-CBN said.

This means operations of digital channels Teleradyo, Jeepney TV, Yey!, Asianovela Channel, CineMo and KBO will also cease.

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For now, ABS-CBN awaits the Supreme Court’s decision on a petition it filed against the NTC’s cease and desist order. MNP (with inputs from Vincent Arboleda)

DOLE hopes to repatriate OFWs’ remains from Saudi Arabia before July 4

Robie de Guzman   •   June 29, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello III has expressed hope to fly home the bodies of 301 deceased overseas Filipino workers before the July 4 deadline set by the Saudi government.

“We were given a deadline of July 4, so we hope to bring them back before that deadline,” he said in a statement issued on Sunday.

DOLE earlier reported that preparations are underway to bring home the remains of Filipino workers who died in Saudi Arabia, including the 152 who succumbed to novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

The remains of deceased OFWs will be brought home via two chartered flights from Riyadh and Jeddah.

DOLE said the Department of Health (DOH) is expected to issue this week the protocols in handling, reception and domestic transport of the remains.

Upon arrival in the country, Bello said the remains of those who died from coronavirus disease will be brought directly to the crematoriums identified by their respective families or local government units.

While those who died of natural causes will be allowed to be fetched by their respective families.

Meanwhile, Bello assured the government is ready to receive and assist more returning Filipino workers who were displaced by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Labor chief made the assurance as he welcomed the statement of Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines to allow more airlines to operate for OFW repatriation.

CAAP has been strictly regulating flights in the country to help curb the spread of the viral respiratory disease.

However, the restriction has prevented government from maximizing its initiatives to repatriate migrant workers whose jobs took a hit amid the global health crisis.

“With CAAP’s permission, we can now bring home more OFWs so they can find refuge in their own country and be reunited with their families,” Bello said.

“We now have systems to locate and track OFWs so that while they signify their intention of flying home, preparations for them are already being made such as testing, hotel accommodation, and transport service to their places of origin,” he added, referring to the OFW Assistance Information System (OASIS) of DOLE developed to locate migrant workers and help government prepare the needs of returning OFWs.

“What’s important is the readiness of the government to provide prompt and appropriate service for our OFWs,” Bello said.

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