DOLE urged to craft school workers’ safety protocols before holding face-to-face classes

Robie de Guzman   •   July 22, 2020   •   480

Senator Joel Villanueva

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Joel Villanueva on Wednesday called on the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to come up with guidelines on workers’ safety protocol for school personnel for the holding of limited face-to-face classes in areas determined to have low risk in the transmission of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Villanueva, who chairs the Senate committee on labor, employment and human resources, said DOLE should convene with the Department of Education (DepEd), Commission on Higher Education, and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority to craft specific occupational standards to ensure the safety and health of teachers and school personnel.

He said these guidelines will help minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission in schools and training facilities that would be allowed to open for students.

“Bago po tuluyang payagan ang mga paaralan at training institutes na magpapasok ng mga estudyante, dapat pong magbalangkas ng mga panuntunan para sa kaligtasan ng mga guro at iba pang empleyado ng mga paaralan at training institutes,” Villanueva said in a statement.

“Sa pagpapatupad ng mga safety protocol sa mga paaralan, gusto po natin bigyan ng kasiguruhan ang mga magulang na ligtas para sa kanilang mga anak ang pumasok sa mga eskwelahan,” he added.

Villanueva made the suggestion after President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday night greenlighted DepEd’s proposal to allow limited face-to-face classes in low-risk areas. The physical classes will begin in January 2021.

The senator said the prevailing regulation on COVID-19 prevention jointly issued by the labor and trade departments in May might not be enough to cover the nuances of school operations, hence, his suggestion for workers’ safety protocols.

He also cited the law on workers’ safety, formally known as Republic Act No. 11058 or the Occupational Safety and Health Standards (OSH) Act, which mandates the institution of measures in workplaces to promote the well-being of workers.

The strict observance of OSH standards has drawn more significance in the prevailing pandemic while a vaccine remains to be discovered, Villanueva said.

He also reiterated his appeal to DOLE to resume its labor inspections at workplaces to ensure the strict observance of OSH standards in preventing the spread of the disease.

DOTr, DOLE to provide jobs to repatriated OFWs affected by COVID-19 pandemic

Aileen Cerrudo   •   June 8, 2021

MANILA, Philippines—The Department of Transportation (DOTr), along with other government agencies, has signed a memorandum that would provide job opportunities for repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) affected by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

During the 2021 Migrant Workers’ Day celebration on Monday (June 7), DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade and Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to provide OFWs displaced by the pandemic with employment opportunities in the DOTr.

“Our repatriated OFWs who are out of work will be able to work under the DOTr at narito sila sa sarili nilang bansa. They no longer need to go out of the country because work is here at home. Second, we will not be looking elsewhere in getting the needed workforce to finish various infrastructure projects,” he said.

Under the said agreement, the DOTr will provide OWWA with a list of vacant positions and skills required where an OFW can apply for work. These include projects under the Build Build Build Program.

Tugade reported that 2,000 jobs will be made available under the PNR Clark Phase 1 Project.

He also said that the department will not only prioritize hiring OFWs, but also displaced public utility drivers and conductors once the project becomes operational. AAC

DOLE deployment ban to Saudi Arabia leaves hundreds of OFWs stranded at NAIA

Marje Pelayo   •   May 28, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Hundreds of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) bound for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) were not allowed to leave on Friday (May 28) after the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) issued a temporary deployment ban to the Kingdom.

Based on the memorandum issued by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), there were reports that several OFWs were being obliged by their recruiters or employers to shoulder all COVID-related expenses including the insurance premium imposed upon entry to Saudi Arabia.

To date, the department has yet to receive any definite guidelines from the KSA if OFWs are exempted from their policy regarding the ban on unvaccinated foreign travelers or those who have been vaccinated with a brand that is not allowed by the Saudi government.

Based on reports from the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Riyadh, OFWs are being charged up to P1,000 dollars before departure from Manila.

“Wala naman kaming na-receive sa POLO na nagreklamo na worker but as I have heard from Manila, sa Manila ko narinig na may mga nagrereklamo dyan,” said Labor Attache Fidel Macauyag.

“That prompted our secretary and on top of that walang clear guidelines ang ating mga advisories dito sa Saudi kung sino ba talaga ang magbabayad,” he added.

As a result of the temporary ban, about 500 OFWs were left stranded as they weren’t allowed to fly despite their existing contracts.

Flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) was also surprised by the announcement but proceeded even with an empty flight because there are Filipinos waiting for their flight to the Philippines in Riyadh.

Those who were affected have the option to rebook their tickets to another date once the ban is lifted.

POEA Administrator Bernard Olalia, for his part, promised to address the problem while waiting for clear guidelines from the Saudi government.

“Konting pasensya at konting sakripisyo kasi po ang ginagawa natin ay para sa kapakanan ng nakararami,” Olalia noted.

“Lahat po tayo ay makikinabang dito lalong lalo na ang mga OFWs na pinagbabayad ng institutional quarantine, pinagbabayad ng insurance coverage, pinagbabayad ng COVID-19 test at hindi po kinikilala ang mga vaccine na vaccinated na yung mga OFWs natin,” he added.

Olalia assured that the Overseas Worker Welfare Administration (OWWA) will shoulder the accommodation expenses of the stranded OFWs as well as their fare returning to their respective hometowns as a result of the ban. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

Deployment of OFWs to Israel temporarily suspended — Bello

Marje Pelayo   •   May 17, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has announced that the deployment of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to Israel is temporarily suspended due to the ongoing violence between Israeli forces and the Hamas militant group.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the safety of Filipinos is the government’s utmost concern at this time.

Most of the OFWs working in the Jewish country are caregivers and hotel workers.

Given the situation, Bello urges the Filipinos bound for Israel to wait until the tension subsides.

“Medyo maghintay-hintay lang po tayo dahil sa hindi magandang kondisyon sa Israel na patutunguhan natin ay meron muna tayong precautionary suspension ng deployment doon,” he said.

The official said quick response teams are on standby to rescue Filipinos who will be caught in the violence.

So far, there are no Filipinos injured or killed in the conflict, Bello confirmed.

However, Bello noted that while the Philippine government is ready should there be calls for repatriation, some OFWs opt to stay despite the dangers.

“Kasi yung mga iba nilipat na sa Egypt. Iyong safer place nilipat sila. libo-libo na yan nasa shelter lahat yan. We are ready to repatriate them merong rapid response team,” he added.

Alert Level 1 is still raised in Israel while Level 2 is raised in the Gaza Strip.

Mandatory repatriation will be triggered when the alert levels are elevated to 3 and 4.MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

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