193 companies declare permanent closure due to COVID-19 crisis – DOLE

Marje Pelayo   •   June 10, 2020   •   1878

MANILA, Philippines –  Exactly 69,022 employees from more than 2,000 establishments across the country have gone jobless amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis.

This, according to the record of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) as of Tuesday (June 9).

Specifically, 193 of these establishments have declared permanent closure while 1,875 others have reduced their workforce.

DOLE is waiting for the filing of formal notice of closure from the said establishments for the final process.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III noted that it is the obligation of employers to give the separation or retrenchment pay for every affected employee.

Statutory right iyan ng employee kapag tinanggal mo siya. Kung walang legal basis, magsasara ka lang then they have to pay for separation pay [This is a statutory right of the employee when he is dismissed from work. If there is no legal basis for the closure then they have to pay for separation pay],” Bello said.

The Employers’ Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP), however, expressed concern about how these establishments can give their employees’ separation pay when they, too, are severely affected by the implementation of community quarantine measures amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Noong araw mahirap magsara ng kumpanya dahil ang daming babayaran. Pero ngayon ready-made reason sa kanila yung lockdown na nalugi sila. Hindi mo mapipilit na magbayad ng separation pay dahil Walang ibabayad [In the past, it’s not easy to close a company because of a number of obligations to settle. But now, the lockdowns had become a ready-made reason for them because of income loss. You cannot force them to give separation pay because they have nothing to give],” explained ECOP President Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr.

Meanwhile, DOLE has recorded around 1.9 million workers affected by the temporary closure of companies, while more than 960,000 are back in their jobs under flexible work arrangements.

The Labor Department is now planning to subsidize 25% to 50% of the payroll cost of employers with the condition that they would not resort to retrenchment. –MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

DOH sees clustering of COVID-19 cases in over 400 areas nationwide

Robie de Guzman   •   July 9, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) on Thursday reported it has monitored around 488 clustering of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in different areas in the country.

The DOH said this means that an active transmission of virus is happening in these areas.

As of July 8, the department said that 379 of the clusters were reported in communities, 46 in health facilities, 24 in jails, and 39 in other areas.

The DOH also reported clustering of cases in the Metro Rail Transit (MRT), at a construction site in Metro Manila and several barangays across the country.

It also said that event-based report showed that Metro Manila had six new barangays with clustering, and one each in Cebu City, Mandaue City, Palawan, and Albay.

As of Wednesday, the Philippines has recorded a total of 50,359 cases.

The DOH surmised that the continued increase in coronavirus infections in the country is not just attributed to improved testing as it may also be due to the clustering of cases and community transmission.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the spike in cases, especially in Metro Manila, is also probably due to increased physical contact following the easing of quarantine restrictions.

“Maaaring ang pagtaas ng mga cases sa Metro Manila ay dahil sa increased testing capacity at community transmission na ating nararanasan nang simulan ang pag ease ng community restrictions,” she said.

“Lalong napaiigting ang community transmission kung lax o hindi natin sinusunod ang minimum public health standards,” she added.

Vergeire said they are now closely monitoring possible clustering of coronavirus cases in different areas of the country.

The country’s coronavirus cases rose to 50,359 on Wednesday after the DOH reported additional 2,539 cases. The agency said that 1,922 of this figure were fresh or newly-validated while 617 were reported late.

The DOH also reported a total of 12,588 recovered patients and 1,314 fatalities.

Vergeire reiterated the agency’s appeal to the public to be more cautious and strictly observe health protocols such as the wearing of face mask, frequent handwashing and social distancing.

“This is our call to everybody, whether you be in the private or public sector. If you are going out and exposing yourself and your loved ones to an unseen enemy, protect yourself. by doing so, you protect your family, you protect your community, you protect the nation,” she said. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Aiko Miguel)

Bodies of dead OFWs from Saudi Arabia to be flown home starting Friday – DOLE

Robie de Guzman   •   July 8, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvester Bello III on Wednesday said that the remains of overseas Filipino workers who died in Saudi Arabia will be brought home in batches starting Friday.

Bello said the first batch will be comprised of 44 bodies of deceased OFWs – 19 of whom succumbed to novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) while the others died of various causes.

The remains will arrive at the Villamor Airbase via a chartered flight on July 10.

Bello said those who died from COVID-19 will be immediately brought to a crematorium for cremation. Their ashes will then be turned over to their families.

For OFWs who died of natural causes, the labor chief said that their remains may be claimed by their relatives or sent to their respective provinces.

The second batch of OFW remains will arrive on Sunday. A total of 274 remains of OFWs will be flown home from Saudi Arabia.

Bello said the bodies will be repatriated in batches because they cannot bring them home all at once due to stringent protocols and requirements.

“Unahin muna natin yung nakumpleto ang papeles kasi ang hirap ng mga papeles dito. Meron from the Ministry of Labor, meron Ministry of Foreign Affairs nila, ospital kung saan galing yung labi. Ang pinakamahirap yung consent ng employer ang ating mga kababayan,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) assured it will extend aid to the families of deceased workers.

OWWA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac said the families of both active and inactive members of the agency will receive financial assistance.

“Bereavement financial assistance at a minimum for inactive OWWA members and then there is an additional death and burial benefit for the active OWWA member in addition to other related benefits like livelihood. But there will be a minimun financial basic assistance for all,” Cacdac said. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Mon Jocson/Jaycel Valera)

Australia closes state border for first time in 100 years to halt coronavirus

UNTV News   •   July 6, 2020

The border between Australia’s two most populous states will close from Tuesday (July 7) for an indefinite period, Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said on Monday (July 6), following an outbreak of the coronavirus in his state.

The decision marks the first time the border with neighbouring New South Wales (NSW) has been shut in 100 years – officials last blocked movement between the two states in 1919 during the Spanish flu pandemic.

The number of COVID-19 cases in Melbourne, Victoria’s capital, has surged in recent days, prompting authorities to enforce strict social-distancing orders in 30 suburbs and put nine public housing towers into complete lockdown.

The state reported 127 new COVID-19 infections overnight, its biggest one-day spike since the pandemic began. 53 of those were detected from the public housing towers. It also reported one death, the first nationally in more than two weeks, taking the country’s total tally to 105.

Andrews said the decision to close the border, effective from 11.59 p.m. local time on Tuesday, was made jointly with Prime Minister Scott Morrison and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian. Victoria’s only other internal border, with South Australia state, is already closed.

Australia has fared better than many countries in the coronavirus pandemic, with just short of 8,500 cases so far, but the Melbourne outbreak has raised alarm bells. The country has reported an average of 109 cases daily over the past week, compared with an average of just 9 cases daily over the first week of June. (Reuters)

(Production: James Redmayne)

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