Gatchalian wants to regulate online business transactions to protect consumers

Robie de Guzman   •   September 4, 2020   •   193

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Friday pushed for the passage of a bill seeking to put in place strict regulations to protect consumers amid the radical change in the country’s business climate with more online businesses registering.

In a statement, Gatchalian said his Senate Bill No. 1591 or the Internet Transactions Act aims to update the country’s regulatory environment to protect consumers from “unethical and unscrupulous practices” on the internet.

Gatchalian said it is important for the government regulatory board and online shopping platforms “to get their acts together” to easily track down those liable from unscrupulous online trading as more and more people and entrepreneurs are shifting their transactions online.

The lawmaker took note of the significant increase in the number of online businesses registering with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) from March 16 to August 31, or a total of 73,276 businesses registered. This is a sharp rise from the 1,753 online businesses that have registered with the agency before the strict community quarantine was imposed in the country.

While e-Commerce makes transactions easier and faster and strengthens the country’s digital economy, Gatchalian said consumers may run the risk of being fooled into buying products to the detriment of their health.

He is particularly referring to supplements being sold in various online selling platforms despite warnings from the Food and Drug Administration.

“This is a dilemma of the future. There are a lot of online platforms right now and they have the entire marketplace where suppliers can get all the products all over the world. Walang habol ang online buyers kung may problema sa nabili nilang produkto. They are left holding the bag,” he said.

“So, this is something that the bill wants to solve – to make online platforms liable so that they can keep track of the supplies they’re selling in the marketplace,” he added.

He said online selling platforms should step up and implement measures to stop unscrupulous activities.

“What are they doing to stop this? Up to this time, this is still happening. Our kababayans are consuming all products they see online but obviously these online platforms are not doing enough,” he added.

Gatchalian stressed that it is paramount to enact the bill into law to resolve key concerns in the country’s eCommerce industry such as internet and logistics infrastructure, payment mechanisms, taxation, and online consumer complaints.

Quezon City gov’t taps e-commerce platform to help small businesses

Robie de Guzman   •   September 9, 2020

The Quezon City government has partnered with the online shopping platform, Shopee to provide free registration for the city’s micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSME), the local government announced.

In a statement on Tuesday, Mayor Joy Belmonte said the partnership is part of its move to strengthen its programs supporting small businesses affected by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We value the economic well-being of our MSMEs in the city as they are our important partners in developing the local economy. With Shopee, we will be able to help more of them survive and continue their businesses despite the ongoing health crisis,” Belmonte said.

The QC government through its Small Business and Cooperatives Development and Promotions Office (SBCDPO) shall screen applicants and endorse qualified MSMEs to Shopee for onboarding and training.

MSMEs may apply provided that they are compliant with the local government business registration requirements.

“We are happy to partner with Quezon City to help their local sellers step up on their digitalization efforts and capture the growing proportion of online-first consumers,” said Martin Yu, associate director of Shopee Philippines.

Interested applicants may get in touch with SBCDPO through their Facebook page.

Gatchalian backs military deployment to help enforce quarantine measures

Robie de Guzman   •   August 17, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian is in favor of mobilizing military personnel to strictly enforce quarantine measures, citing the need to support the police and barangay officials on the ground who have been falling ill due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

In a statement on Sunday, Gatchalian said that if quarantine measures, especially the on-going modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) in Metro Manila and nearby provinces of Bulacan, Batangas, Laguna, Rizal), are not enforced, it becomes useless to shut down the economy because the virus will only continue to spread.

“I agree that we need to mobilize the military in so far as putting more boots on the ground and enforcing the MECQ because if we don’t enforce the MECQ to the letter, then it is useless closing the economy,” Gatchalian said.

“It’s a double whammy. You don’t stop the virus and you’re preventing people from earning,” he added.

Gatchalian also made an example of the increasing number of infections among police and barangay officials in Valenzuela, which is now almost at 2,000.

These officials, however, are the only ones that local governments can immediately deploy to enforce quarantine measures.

He said that by calling for military back-up, local governments can increase the number of enforcers to ensure that quarantine measures are effectively imposed.

“For practical purposes, we really need to have more enforcers on the ground, and this is where the military plays a very big role,” he said.

“In fact, kami sa Valenzuela we wrote AFP to give us more military presence kasi nga ang dami naming police na nagkakasakit,” he added.

The lawmaker also stressed that increased military presence in a locality does not mean they are taking over the enforcement of quarantine measures to beat COVID-19.

He shared that in Valenzuela, deployed military personnel take their directions from the police chief and the local chief executive, adding that the military do not have policing powers. He also said that the display of authority by military personnel compels the public to follow quarantine protocols.

Gatchalian also debunked the notion that the national response to COVID-19 is militaristic, emphasizing that the Armed Forces of the Philippines is not the one enforcing the strategy to beat the virus.

He pointed out that aside from the health aspect of the response to COVID-19, there are also logistics concerns that are best assigned to the military. These include the transportation and distribution of personal protective equipment, and other health supplies.

Gatchalian also emphasized that those who are leading the national response to COVID-19 were specifically appointed for task-driven roles, with medical experts still leading the health aspect of the country’s coronavirus strategy.

Gatchalian wants probe on quality of DepEd’s lessons for distance learning

Robie de Guzman   •   August 14, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian is pushing for a Senate inquiry on the content of lessons to be used by the Department of Education (DepEd) for its distance learning program.

Gatchalian issued the statement on Friday after DepEd drew criticisms over some of its episodes containing grammatical and typographical errors.

DepEd started its test broadcast of television episodes on state-run Intercontinental Broadcasting Corporation (IBC-13) and Solar Learning. However, photos showing a Grade 8 lesson went viral as netizens slammed what some described as “painful” errors in the lesson.

While DepEd already acknowledged the errors and vowed to make improvements on its TV broadcast content, Gatchalian stressed that quality control should not be compromised amid the rush to make learning resources available when classes open.

“We’ll probably have another hearing on the content aspect of distance learning because quality control is very important,” Gatchalian said in a statement.

Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture, reiterated that the reach of television makes it a viable tool for distance learning, especially for those who have no available internet connectivity.

Citing information from Dataxis, a global firm specializing in telecom and media business, he said 18.7 million Filipino households have television in 2019, a number that is expected to increase to 20.7 million by 2024.

The lawmaker added that since not all parents can teach their children at home because some of them have not completed schooling, teachers can guide learners through recorded lessons for television. Parents, on the other hand, can ensure that their children are focused on studying.

He noted that some local government units (LGU) have already partnered with local television stations to broadcast recorded lessons.

He cited as an example a local cable service provider in Luna, Isabela which provided two channels for the province’s ‘TV-Eskwela’. One channel will be used for elementary while the other will be for high school learners.

Isabela City in Basilan has also forged a partnership with a local cable service provider to put up ‘TELEdukasyon’.

Under the partnership, the P1,500 cable installation fee is waived and parents will just have to pay for the P350 subscription fee monthly, which gives them access to three channels dedicated to distance learning.

“Sa pagpapatuloy ng edukasyon ngayong panahon ng krisis, hindi lang ang pag-abot sa ating mga mag-aaral ang dapat nating pinag-uusapan. Mahalagang tutukan natin kung paano masisigurong dekalidad ang edukasyon na natatanggap nila kahit na sila ay nasa mga tahanan nila,” Gatchalian said.

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