DOLE, DTI mandate regular COVID-19 tests for workers

Marje Pelayo   •   August 17, 2020   •   886

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said that workers in several sectors will be required to undergo regular real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests.

The said measure, which took effect Saturday (August 15), is contained in the Joint Memorandum Circular No. 20-04 series of 2020, or DTI and DOLE Supplemental Guidelines on Workplace Prevention and Control of COVID-19.

It aims at preventing the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in workplaces, according to Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III.

It covers all workers in the hospitality and tourism sectors, manufacturing companies, including frontline and economic priority employees.

The Secretary emphasized, however, that the tests must be administered free of charge.

“The COVID-19 testing must be at no cost to the employees,” he said.

“This is so far the most comprehensive set of guidelines for the safety and protection of workers and employees in workplaces. The strict observance of these health protocols will make a big  difference in our long-drawn battle to defeat Covid 19 and ensure the productivity of the Filipino workforce,” he added.

Specifically identified to undergo the RT–PCR test include workers in:

  • tourist zones
  • local manufacturing companies
  • transport and logistics
  • food retail
  • education
  • financial services
  • non-food retail services
  • public market
  • construction
  • water supply
  • sewerage and waste management
  • public sector
  • mass media

The joint memorandum covers all establishments, projects, sites, including establishments located inside special economic zones and other investment promotion agencies, and all other places where work is being undertaken in all branches of economic activity, except in the public sector.

The Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) said it still need to clarify the details of the memorandum with DOLE. 

According to ECOP President Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr., about 90% of businesses in the country are micro enterprises and about 50% of them have already closed.

ECOP said these enterprises might decide to permanently close due to the impact of the COVID-19 crisis. 

“Even nga iyong small matters like face mask and face shield, issue pa rin sa ibang kumpanya. Napakaliit na bagay noon. Iyong testing pa ba [Even the small matters like face masks and face shield remain an issue with other companies. Those are actually small items. How much more with the (RT-PCR) testing],” Luis concluded. MNP (with inputs from Rey Pelayo)

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)

P600M fund earmarked for one-time aid to EC pensioners – Bello

Robie de Guzman   •   April 21, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Employees’ Compensation Commission (ECC) has set aside around P600 million fund for the implementation of the one-time P20,000 assistance to vulnerable pensioners of the Social Security System (SSS) and the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said.

In a statement, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the fund will benefit around 31,000 pensioners consisting of both private and public sector workers.

The ECC is an attached agency of the DOLE and Bello chairs the commission.

Bello’s announcement came after President Rodrigo Duterte signed Monday Administrative Order (AO) No. 39, which grants a one-time financial assistance to all Employees’ Compensation (EC) program pensioners for permanent partial disability (PPD), permanent total disability (PTD), and survivorship through ECC’s implementing agencies, Social Security System (SSS) for the private sector, and Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) for the public sector, once the implementing rules and regulations has been issued.

In signing the AO, Duterte recognized that the “adverse effects of the pandemic on the economy, supplementary health necessities for the battle against the virus, and restrictions imposed on our mobility and social interaction, have increased the financial and health burdens experienced by the EC pensioners.”

The ECC, SSS, and the GSIS have been tasked to set aside and release appropriate funding to cover the financial assistance from the Social Insurance Fund under the EC Program.

“This is great news for all EC pensioners who are further thrown into deep financial hardships made worse by the Covid pandemic. This attests to the President’s soft spot for the poor and the vulnerable,” Bello said.

ECC Executive Director Stella Zipagan-Banawis, for her part, said that all qualified pensioners do not need to apply to the GSIS or SSS, as it will be automatically granted to them in the same manner as their pension was processed.

LGUs may recruit TUPAD workers as contact tracers – Bello

Robie de Guzman   •   April 19, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Local government units (LGU) may now utilize the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) cash for work program, Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced (TUPAD) to recruit contact tracers, the labor chief said.

In a statement, DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III said that aside from Metro Manila, LGUs in other areas needing additional contact tracers may tap TUPAD beneficiaries as contact tracers in their respective jurisdictions.

Bello said he already informed the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) of this move to support the requirements of various LGUs for additional contact tracers, especially in areas with high cases of novel coronavirus disease.

DOLE regional directors have also been given the discretion to approve requests of local chief executives to tap TUPAD beneficiaries as contact tracers in their respective areas.

“In our meeting with the DILG, I already told Acting Secretary (Bernardo) Florece that he can allocate to any LGU the number of contact tracers to be employed under our TUPAD program,” he added.

Florece was designated as DILG officer in charge in March while Secretary Eduardo Año was on medical leave.

TUPAD is an emergency employment program for displaced informal sector workers. Beneficiaries are provided with temporary employment that runs between 10 days to 30 days, and paid the prevailing daily minimum wage in their respective areas.

Beneficiaries are normally those displaced by natural calamities like typhoon, earthquake, volcanic eruption or disasters and accidents like fire, among others.

“Since the DILG has problems funding the contact tracing of LGUs, I thought it wise to offer our TUPAD program for that purpose,” Bello said.

“In this manner, we are not only providing emergency employment to our displaced workers but also helping the urgent need of the community to stop the spread of the disease through contact tracing,” he added.

At the height of the lockdowns last year, DOLE said that TUPAD beneficiaries were engaged to undertake disinfection and sanitation of their homes and immediate neighborhood to contain the spread of the virus.

Bello had initially offered 14,000 TUPAD beneficiaries as contact tracers for the requirements of LGUs in the National Capital Region and the provinces of Bulacan, Rizal, Cavite, and Laguna for a duration of one month.

But Metro Manila mayors requested that contract tracers be employed for three months instead for an allocation of P230 million equivalent to close to 5,000 contact tracers.

“The application and processing for NCR contact tracers under TUPAD started on Saturday and ends on April 22,” DOLE said.

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