Some lawmakers withdraw support for ‘Better Normal’ bill

Marje Pelayo   •   August 15, 2020   •   287

MANILA, Philippines — Several members of the House of Representatives (HOR) oppose a provision in House Bill 6864 that prohibits mass gatherings.

Section 6 of House Bill 6864 or the Better Normal of Workplace, Communities and Public Spaces Act of 2020 states that public gatherings are prohibited subject to the exceptions as may be provided under the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the Act.

The proposed legislation was approved in the lower chamber last Monday (August 10).

Among the 242 solons who voted ‘yes’ were the six members of the Makabayan Bloc. But after reviewing the bill’s final version, they withdrew their votes.

One of them was Bayan Muna Partylist Representative Carlos Zarate.

“Sa tingin natin ito ay taliwas sa nakasaad sa ating Konstitusyon na ginagarantiyahan ang karapatan ng mamamayan na magpahayag, i-address ang gobyerno sa kanilang mga hinaing (I believe it is contrary to the provisions of the Constitution that guarantee the people’s right to self-expresseion, to address their grievances against the government), even during the time of health crisis,” he said.

The bill primarily aims to mitigate the transmission of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in workplaces, communities and public places. The public would be mandated to wear a face shield; a face mask or an ear loop mask when they go outdoors.

Physical distancing of at least one meter would be observed.

The Department of Education (DepEd) and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) would be tasked to formulate a flexible learning program.

The bill shall improve the information and communications technology which is much needed especially this time of pandemic.

Workplaces in industrial and commercial establishments would be made to submit a management plan to their local government unit to ensure that safeguard measures are properly enforced.

Flexible working schedules would also be implemented while maintaining the 8 hours a day or 48 hours a week work setup.

Passengers of public transport would also be required to use hand sanitizers or disinfectant before entering a vehicle.

Violators of the provisions of the act shall be fined with P1,000 to P100,000 or and may be imprisoned from one to six months depending on the offense. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

Angel Locsin apologizes after senior citizen died while waiting in community pantry

Aileen Cerrudo   •   April 23, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Actress Angel Locsin on Friday (April 23) apologized after a senior citizen died while waiting in line at the community pantry in Quezon City.

The actress admitted they were not able to control the huge crowd that waited in line.

She said the community pantry was supposed to open at 10:00 a.m. but they had to open a bit early as the volume of people who want to benefit from the community pantry began to rise.

There were also individuals who did not have a stub and, yet, cut in line.

Hindi lang po talaga nila ma-control ang mga tao. Hindi po ito ang gusto ko, nagsimula po kami ng maayos ang aming layunin pati ang pagpaplano ng social distancing nagkataon lang po talaga siguro na gutom lang po talaga na kahit wala pa sa pila sumingit na. Sa mga nagambala ko po dito pasensya na po hindi po ito ang intensyon ko (We were not able to control the crowd. This is not what I wanted, we started off good and we planned it out including the social distancing. It just so happends that there were a lot of people in need that they had to cut in line. To those I inconvenienced, I apologize. It was not my intention),” she said.

The senior citizen, 67-year-old Rolando Dela Cruz, fainted while he was in line in the community pantry. He was rushed to the hospital but was declared dead on arrival.

Barangay Holy Spirit Captain Chito Valmocina expressed concern over the lack of coordination between the local authorities and Locsin’s personnel.

Ang request nga nila dalawang tanod lang. Alas-dose na hindi pa natatapos ang 300 tsaka pa nila sinabi na talagang hanggang 300 lang (They only requested two barangay tanods. It was already 12:00 noon, they still were not done serving 300 [beneficiaries] when they said they will only accommodate 300 people),” Valmocina said.

Meanwhile, the Quezon City local government said they are ready to provide financial aid to the relatives of Dela Cruz.

The local government added that it still supports community pantries; however, the health and safety protocols should still be followed and organizers should fully coordinate with the local government to avoid a similar incident. AAC (with reports from Janice Ingente)

DOLE to hire 1,000 additional contact tracers for Metro Manila

Marje Pelayo   •   April 23, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) will hire up to 6,000 contact tracers to help in the government’s response against COVID-19.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said that from the initial 4,000 recruits, the government is now planning to hire 1,000 additional  contact tracers for Metro Manila.

Bello said DOLE  has allotted an additional P65 million for the mass hiring, bringing the program’s total budget to P295 million.

The official explained that such augmentation is necessary as the demand for contact tracers especially in Metro Manila has been high.

“Kailangang-kailangan talaga ng ating mga contact tracer lalong lalo na dito sa NCR at saka sa apat na bubble,” Bello said.

As of Thursday (April 22), the number of applicants for the position has reached more than 10,000.

Bello said training for the contact tracers will begin on Monday (April 26). Accepted applicants will start their duty on May 1.

Each contact tracer will receive a monthly salary of P16,000 or up to P45,000 for three months. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

PhilHealth’s debit-credit payment method now applies to all COVID-19 high, critical risk areas – Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   April 23, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The government’s task force for COVID-19 response has approved the application of Philippine Health Insurance Corp.’s (PhilHealth) debit-credit payment method (DCPM) in areas with high-risk and critical COVID-19 situation nationwide, Malacañang said Friday.

In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) approved the policy on Thursday, April 22.

Roque said the move was made as high-risk and critical risk areas will also be prioritized in the COVID-19 vaccine allocation, human health resource deployment, and other relevant COVID-19 response measures, as applicable.

Prior to the IATF’s order, PhilHealth, under its Circular 2021-0004, provides for the use of payment method to facilitate the settlement of accounts payable to healthcare facilities during the State of Public Health Emergency brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

PhilHealth initially applied DCPM only to areas identified by the IATF, particularly in the National Capital Region, Batangas, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, Pampanga, and Rizal.

Roque said the IATF likewise directed the National Task Force (NTF) Task Group Treat, through the One COVID Referral System, to utilize the Feasibility Analysis of Syndromic Surveillance Using Spatio-Temporal Epidemiological Modeler for Early Detection of Diseases (FASSSTER) projections on target beds and human resources for health.

“These projections shall identify health capacity needs required to lower health care and intensive care unit (ICU) utilization rates,” he said.

“The NTF shall also review and implement the recommended Prevent-Detect-Isolate-Treat- Reintegrate strategies to reduce the health utilization rates and augment the needs of human resources for health,” he added.

Roque said that the task group will also identify target additional beds on a weekly basis that will substantially reduce health care and ICU utilization rates, determine and list specific health facilities and infrastructure to contribute these additional beds, and operationalize how these beds become functional with adequate human resources for health and equipment.

The Palace official earlier said that the government is eyeing to add 200 more ICU beds for COVID-19 patients.

“The NTF shall further engage the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority to develop training and instructional materials of available COVID-19 response frameworks to enhance the enforcement of COVID-19 strategies at the barangay level,” Roque said.

The said materials shall be cascaded to the barangay, purok, sitio, and zone levels through the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the regional counterparts of the NTF for immediate and intensified implementation through barangay empowerment, he added.

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