PH gov’t urged to prioritize plight of workers in economic recovery plan

Robie de Guzman   •   June 9, 2020   •   522

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Joel Villanueva has urged the national government to include the welfare of workers among its top priorities in creating a recovery plan for the country amid the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Villanueva, who chairs the Senate committee on labor, lamented that in the past few months, workers’ welfare was “glossed over” in the policies and programs implemented by the government.

“The tough economic climate is already punishing workers with layoffs left and right. How do we expect our people to provide for their families if they are jobless? Our government cannot simply look away from their plight, and keep on overlooking their condition,” he said in a statement on Monday.

“We urge our policymakers to consider the welfare of workers as they draw up the economic recovery plan of our country. After all, it is our workers who will fuel the engines of our economy,” he added.

Villanueva said that despite the implementation of emergency employment programs, “a significant portion of workers were still not a able to receive any form of assistance from the government.

He said only about 657,000 workers of the 2.6 million workers in the formal sector reported to DOLE received government assistance through the agency’s COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program, which gives a one-time cash assistance of P5,000 per individual.

The senator also said that some 330,000 workers in the informal sector, which is estimated to be over 30 million in 2018, benefitted from the labor department’s cash for work program called Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers.

Villanueva asked the government to pour more funds to programs that would generate employment so that workers have a means to earn a living for their families while the economy picks up its pace.

He also proposed funding scholarship programs for displaced workers and returning overseas Filipino workers at the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, for upskilling and retooling.

“The Senate version of the ‘Bayanihan 2’ bill placed a P1 billion fund for the agency’s scholarships to encourage displaced workers to upgrade their skills to become more employable.

The lawmaker also pointed out while government assistance to businesses was necessary, it must be hinged on their commitment to keeping workers in their ranks.

DTI welcomes move to shorten curfew hours in Metro Manila

Robie de Guzman   •   June 14, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez welcomed the decision of the Metro Manila Council (MMC) to shorten the uniform curfew hours being implemented amid the coronavirus pandemic-induced community quarantine.

In a Palace briefing on Monday, Lopez said shorter curfew hours would allow restaurants and other business establishments to operate for longer hours. This would also give workers and businesses additional income.

“Malaking tulong ito kasi yung extension ng opening hours nila will allow additional one or two more turnovers, yun palit ng tao and more customers,” Lopez said.

“Of course, mas malaking kita para sa mga workers sa mga istablisyementong iyon, that means they can close around 10, 10:30 and will still allow greater mobility,” he added.

On Monday, Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chairperson Benhur Abalos, who is also the concurrent head of the MMC, announced that the 17 Metro Manila mayors have unanimously agreed to adjust the curfew hours in the region in a bid to spur economic activity.

Abalos said the curfew hours will be implemented from 12 a.m. to 4 a.m. starting June 15. Previous curfew hours started at 10 p.m.

Metro Manila is under general community quarantine (GCQ) with restrictions until June 15.

Earlier in the day, Inter-Agency Task Force and Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said that new community quarantine classifications to be implemented in the country after June 15 will be announced on Monday night.

He said there is a possibility that Metro Manila and nearby areas will be placed under the regular GCQ due to lower COVID-19 daily and two-week attack rate and healthcare utilization rate.

Roque, however, noted that the number of COVID-19 cases remains high in the country.

“Most likely, it will be ordinary GCQ, this has been announced also publicly as the recommendation of our implementers, the Metro Manila mayors. Although I don’t want to second-guess, an ordinary GCQ would result in higher percentage capacity particularly for indoor dining and indoor facilities,” he said. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

After Duterte’s ‘hero’ remark, Duque says honor also goes to medical, economic frontliners

Robie de Guzman   •   May 4, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III on Tuesday expressed appreciation for President Rodrigo Duterte’s remark calling him a “hero” amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but stressed that medical and economic frontliners who brave the public health crisis are the heroes of the pandemic.

“I am touched by the President’s remarks acknowledging the efforts of the DOH. I am thankful for his continued support and confidence in my leadership,” Duque said in a statement.

“Let me reiterate what I have been saying since the beginning of the pandemic – the heroes are our medical and economic frontliners who brave the pandemic in order to show up at work and fulfill their essential duties,” he added.

During the rollout of Sputnik V vaccine in a hospital in Manila, Duque expressed hope that the country’s frontliners will remain inspired and strong, as they are the ones taking care of COVID-19 patients.

He also reminded the public to choose to be a hero rather than be a spreader of the disease by observing health protocols, such as the wearing of face mask, despite the discomfort it brings.

“While the government has put in place comprehensive mitigation and response strategies, these are but cushions to dampen the impact of disease transmission; as long as there are breaches in our minimum public health standards, there will be transmission, and heartbreakingly so, there will be deaths,” he said.

“Yes, we may be able to survive contracting the disease, but we must remember that others will not be as fortunate. But it is also the little things that can stop the spread of disease – the proper wearing of a mask and face shield may be uncomfortable at times, but enduring a little discomfort can save lives,” he added.

Palace asks all sectors to unite, help gov’t end COVID-19 pandemic

Robie de Guzman   •   April 15, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang has urged all sectors in the country to unite and help in government efforts to combat the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made the appeal as he cited measures implemented by the government to slow down the virus transmission and shrugged off criticism over the Duterte administration’s handling of the public health crisis.

In a statement, Roque said the government has intensified testing, tracing, isolation, treatment, and vaccination efforts to address the COVID-19 spike.

Citing global data, the Palace official said that the Philippines ranks third after India and China in terms of tests per million population, while in terms of total tests conducted, the Philippines is second after Indonesia among ASEAN countries, with more than 10, 421,636 tests conducted, as of April 5, 2021.

“We have a weekly average of 52,565 tests from April 4-10, and reaching a high of 63,839 tests conducted last April 8, 2021,” Roque added.

On tracing, Roque said the government has strengthened and improved the use of Staysafe.ph system by using automatic contact tracing through Smart Messaging System and the supplementation of around 27,672 contact tracers in the NCR Plus.

The NCR Plus refers to the National Capital Region, Bulacan, Cavite, Rizal, and Laguna. The area was previously placed under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) from March 29 to April 11 due to a surge in coronavirus infections and later reverted to modified ECQ until April 30.

Malacañang also said that the government built more facilities to augment the need for quarantine centers.

“On isolation, the Department of Public Works and Highways continue to build facilities and mobile hospitals to augment the need for quarantine facilities, including the activation of more than 1,700 beds, including the recently opened 110-bed capacity modular hospital in Quezon Institute and 300-bed capacity Temporary Treatment and Monitoring Facility in The Manila Times College of Subic, Inc.,” he said.

Efforts are also being made to accommodate and better serve patients with COVID-19, Roque said.

“On treatment, we have set up a One Hospital Command to better serve patients in need of hospitalization. Medical facilities have likewise given to increase its dedicated beds COVID-19 after the President directed the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation to settle its obligation with hospitals while mainstreaming telemedicine in local government units,” he said.

“A total of 136 healthcare workers from the Visayas and Mindanao have been deployed to different facilities in Metro Manila,” he added.

Roque also pointed out that the Philippines is the third highest in vaccine rollout in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), with 1.2 million doses administered.

“On vaccination, we have reached the one million mark in terms of total COVID-19 vaccines administered,” he said.

Roque reminded critics that the spike in COVID-19 cases is not only happening in the Philippines but in other countries as well.

“Critics and the detractors of the Administration have always something to say. It is worth mentioning that the increase in the number of cases is seen not only in the Philippines, but it is reflected worldwide as per World Health Organization Country Representative Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe,” he said.

He, however, acknowledged that much more can be done to ramp up efforts to respond to the prevailing public health crisis.

“We call on all sectors to unite and help the government in putting an end to this dreadful pandemic,” he said.

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