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

Robie de Guzman   •   July 22, 2020   •   190

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.

Duterte approves P5-B for OFW aid, repatriation

Maris Federez   •   August 9, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Department of Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre Bello III announced Sunday that President Duterte has approved the release of an additional P5 billion for the repatriation and assistance to overseas Filipino workers affected by the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

“Dahil po mahal na mahal ni Pangulong Duterte ang ating mga bagong bayani, ibinigay po nya ang kailangan nating dagdag na pondo para sa repatriation at tulong para sa ating mga OFW,” Bello said.

In a statement issued on August 9, the Labor chief said a huge part of the said funds will be released to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) as the one that undertakes the repatriation of displaced OFWs due to lockdowns and closure of establishments overseas.

OWWA is also the one that shoulders the cost of COVID-19 tests of OFWs upon their arrival in the country, as well as their food and accommodation in hotels while awaiting test results of the test.

The agency also takes care of the OFWs transportation to their home provinces once they are tested negative for the virus.

OWWA has so far sent home close to 130,000 OFWs since May 15 via land, sea and air transport.

Other than the OWWA assistance, DOLE has been extending a one-time P10,000 or $200 cash aid under AKAP to pandemic-affected OFWs, both on-site and those stranded in the country, the statement said.

It added that the Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLO) and OWWA had facilitated the processing and approval of the applications of 267,584 OFWs under the program that was meant to benefit only 250,000.

“I have directed our POLOs to accelerate the processing of the assistance so that a greater number of our OFWs will benefit soonest from the aid coming from our government,” Bello said.

The secretary had requested a P2.5 billion additional fund for the 597,469 OFWs who are requesting assistance from the government.

Bello believes that with additional funding, “more OFWs will benefit from the AKAP program and even more overseas workers will be repatriated and provided with assistance.” — /mbmf

DOLE vows immediate repatriation of Filipino casualties in Beirut blast

Robie de Guzman   •   August 6, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has assured it is now extending assistance to the family of the Filipino workers who died in the powerful blasts that occurred in Beirut, Lebanon on August 4.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III condoled with the families of the two Filipino workers who were among the reported fatalities in the twin explosions.

“We condole with the families of the two Filipino workers who perished in the tragic accident in Beirut,” he said.

Bello said the families of those who died in the incident have been duly notified and that the agency is working on the immediate repatriation of their remains.

“We shall expedite the release of appropriate insurance and OWWA (Overseas Workers Welfare Administration) benefits for all victims of the tragedy,” he said.

On Wednesday, two powerful blasts ripped through the Port of Beirut, Lebanon that left at least 100 people dead and more than 4,000 injured.

The Department of Foreign Affairs earlier said that eight Filipinos were also hurt in the incident while the 11 others who were earlier reported missing have been found and accounted for.

The labor chief said they are also praying for the fast recovery of the Filipinos who are still undergoing treatment in various hospitals in Lebanon for the serious injuries they sustained.

Bello said his office is coordinating closely with Beirut authorities for the safe return of Filipino workers who wish to avail of the Philippine government’s repatriation program.

Over 120K repatriated OFWs return to their provinces

Aileen Cerrudo   •   August 5, 2020

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Tuesday (August 4) reported that more than 120,000 repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFW) are now back in their respective provinces.

DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III said that according to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administratio (OWWA), the department has assisted and sent home 122,369 OFWs since May.

“We will not get tired of assisting our returning OFWs, and facilitate their transport to the provinces and be with their families. This is just a small way to repay their enormous contribution to our country,” Bello said.

The labor chief also said that the labor department has almost exhausted the P2.5-billion AKAP assistance fund being extended to both on-site and repatriated OFWs affected by the pandemic. AAC

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