Formal peace talks with Reds likely to resume in January – Bello

Marje Pelayo   •   December 13, 2019   •   465

MANILA, Philippines — The government intends to resume the formal peace talks with the communist group come January next year.

According to Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III who serves as the government’s chief negotiator, the peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) would probably resume on the second or third week of January.

NDFP is the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founded by activist Jose Maria ‘Joma’ Sison who is now in exile in the Netherlands.

Over the weekend, Bello was able to talk to Sison who responded favorably to President Rodrigo Duterte’s offer for both parties to return to the negotiating table.

In line with this, Bello said the CPP may declare a truce on December 20 or 21.

Though Sison agreed to the resumption of the peace talks, he wants it done on a neutral venue.

In a recent interview, Sison said he could meet President Duterte in person but he wanted to have legal and political guarantees that he’d still be protected under the provisions of the Refugee Convention and the European Convention on Human Rights.

Though the meet-up is a remote possibility, Sison said, it may not happen in the Philippines but “maybe in a nearby country.”

Joma Sison concedes to UN’s call for a global ceasefire

Marje Pelayo   •   March 25, 2020

Jose Maria Sison

MANILA, Philippines – Communist leader Jose Maria Sison has taken a cue from the United Nations (UN) to agree on a ceasefire with the government at this time of health crisis due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

“As Chief Political Consultant, I am advising the Negotiating Panel of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to recommend to its principal, the NDFP National Council, the issuance of a unilateral ceasefire declaration by the Communist Party of the Philippines to the New People’s Army in order to respond to the call of UN secretary general Antonio Guterres for a global ceasefire between warring parties for the common purpose of fighting the Covid-19 pandemic,” Sison said in a statement.

The founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines stressed, however, that their decision doesn’t mean they are putting their guards down against potential tactical offensives by government forces.

Prior to the UN’s call for a global ceasefire, President Rodrigo Duterte asked the communist group to agree with a ceasefire to give way for the national government to respond to the COVID-19 crisis.

Malacañang, meanwhile, welcomes the rebel group’s intention to likewise declare a unilateral ceasefire as it is much necessary at this trying times.

“It is about time they join the collective efforts of the nation to fight the spread of the coronavirus,” noted Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo. MNP (with details from Rosalie Coz)

DOLE readies aid for 250,000 workers affected by COVID-19 quarantine

Robie de Guzman   •   March 18, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Tuesday said it is rolling out financial assistance program for workers affected by the enhanced community quarantine being enforced in Luzon amid the threat of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

In a statement, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said that under the P1.3-billion COVID Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP), each worker in private establishments will receive P5,000 in cash assistance to be processed through the beneficiary’s payroll accounts.

Bello said 250,000 workers are expected to benefit from the program.

DOLE’s Department Order No. 209, which covers the guidelines for CAMP, states that workers covered by the program include retained workers having reduced working hours due to the implementation of flexible working arrangements by employers, and workers whose employment has been suspended due to the temporary shutdown of their employer’s operation.

Affected workers, regardless of employment status, will receive the one-time unconditional financial assistance in lump-sum, the guidelines stated.

In addition, DOLE will also give affected workers employment facilitation services to match their skills with available local or overseas jobs.

The department said the assistance will be given within two weeks upon the receipt of their application by DOLE regional offices.

Employers are also required to submit a report on their efforts to scale down their operations due to COVID-19 such as adopting flexible working arrangements like work from home, reduced working hours, among others.

The CAMP program does not cover government employees.

DOLE also said that an emergency employment assistance amounting to P180-million will be given to informal sector workers under the Tulong Pangkabuhayan sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (TUPAD).

“Effective immediately, we are rolling out a P180-million emergency employment program under TUPAD for some 18,000 informal sector workers and the P1.3-billion COVID Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP) to benefit about 250,000 workers,” Bello said in a statement.

The labor chief said the initial allocation for TUPAD will pay for barangay works to disinfect the communities, while CAMP represents financial assistance to the quarantine displaced workers.

“We shall undertake other such measures that may be necessary to help mitigate the impact of the current global health emergency,” he said.

At the same time, Bello echoed President Rodrigo Duterte’s appeal to big businesses to give their share in these trying times.

“I particularly make this appeal to the owners and managements of Filipino conglomerates like SM, Ayala, Yuchengco, Aboitiz, Metro Pacific, SMC, Summit, Villar and similar groups of companies who can very well take care of their workers and employees for the duration of the enhanced community quarantine,” he said.

“Again, we earnestly request the big employers to financially help their employees to tide them over during this public emergency,” he added.

Bello also reiterated the government’s appeal to all workers to “cooperate with the government and their employers to implement the necessary measures to contain the spread of COVID-19.”

The Philippines has been placed under a state of calamity due to rising coronavirus infections.

President Rodrigo Duterte also placed the entire Luzon under enhanced community quarantine until April 12 to combat the spread of the virus.

To date, the country has 187 confirmed cases with 14 deaths and four recovered cases.

PH Labor chief apologizes to Dubai gov’t over report on OFW death due to coronavirus

Robie de Guzman   •   February 7, 2020

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Friday issued an apology to the government of Dubai for his earlier statement that a Filipino worker there recently died of coronavirus.

In a statement, DOLE clarified that the death of Filipino worker, identified as Amalia Collado Daproza, was not a case of novel coronavirus.

“Based on a belated report received by the office of Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III from the Philippine Labor Office in Dubai, results of confirmatory tests conducted by the Pathology and Genetics Department of the Dubai Health Authority on Daproza’s specimen yielded negative of the novel coronavirus,” DOLE said.

“Secretary Bello nonetheless wishes to apologize to the government of Dubai for the confusion and whatever anxiety that the announcement may have caused,” it added.

Bello on Thursday told media that a Filipino in Dubai had died of “coronavirus” based on earlier information provided to his office.

He, however, did not say if the worker was infected with the novel coronavirus strain which caused the outbreak in China.

The Dubai Government Media Office in a Facebook post denied Bello’s claim, saying tests conducted on the deceased person showed she did not contract the virus.

“The Dubai government media office denied the validity of the statements by the Philippine minister of labor regarding the death of a Filipino woman in Dubai due to the new coronavirus,” the post stated.

“The deceased was suffering from a respiratory infection and laboratory tests showed she did not have the virus,” it added.

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