SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau
With the continuous spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, Speaker Alan Peter “Compañero” Cayetano, along with several leaders of the House of Representatives, filed House Bill 6623 which seeks to establish policies and regulations for the "new normal" in the workplace and in public spaces.
In his explanatory note of the proposed "New Normal for the Workplace and Public Spaces Act of 2020", Speaker Cayetano stressed that the country cannot simply proceed “as if things can still go back to ‘normal’” or how it was prior to the outbreak, when workplaces and businesses reopen together with the resumption of other economic activities.
“The bill will prepare and educate the Filipino public for life after the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions and to adapt to the new norms of physical distancing. It institutionalizes a new way of life after the Enhanced Community Quarantine and serves as a guide to the public,” Speaker Cayetano said.
The approval of HB 6623 shall allow for the implementation of various mechanisms to further protect the Filipinos while ensuring the restoration of livelihood opportunities and sources of income for all. It provides that standards for the “new normal” shall consist of/apply to the following: (a) universal and mandatory safety measures, such as the mandatory wearing of masks in public places and the mandatory social distancing, (b) management and regulation of government-managed public spaces and privately-managed spaces, (c) management of public transportation, (d) monitoring of schools and learning institutions, and (e) monitoring of private commercial and industrial workplaces.
However, it states that these are subject to prevailing guidelines of the World Health Organization and the Department of Health (DOH), including the consensus of the international medical community should the threat of the virus be subsequently contained or eradicated through a viable vaccine.
The bill also provides for the activation of the Inter-Local Government Unit Task Force. With this, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), in coordination with the COVID-19 Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF), shall be directed to issue guidelines on the establishment of Inter-LGU Coordinating Councils or activate existing councils to harmonize the localization and implementation of the policies identified in this proposed Act.
Being responsible for instituting localized policies and legislation, the LGUs may then enact the necessary and appropriate ordinance for the local implementation of this measure. In coordination with the DOH, the LGUs shall also continue to provide immediate assistance to reported COVID-confirmed resident patients. Private companies and and establishments shall likewise be mandated to submit their “New Normal Workforce and Workplace Management Plans” to their respective LGUs.
Such plans must detail the total number of employees in the office, the overall strategy for the reporting workforce, the mechanisms for maintaining personal hygiene and cleanliness, physical changes in space management to protect employees and implement physical distancing, personal protective equipment to be provided, and measures for managing employees exhibiting symptoms and/or confirmed to have tested positive for COVID-19.
Meanwhile for workplace-specific protocols, the following shall be implemented: (a) food services shall resume operations with take-out/delivery service only and gradually re-introduce dine-ins, and strictly implement physical distancing within the establishment, (b) commercial stores shall identify the maximum number of people allowed inside, but also promote online transactions and services, and (c) schools shall integrate online classes in their curriculum, provide staggered school days and smaller class sizes when on-site classes resume, as well as provide daily temperature checks and weekly check ups for students and staff, among others.
Along with these, public sector offices and agencies shall establish e-government systems, which shall facilitate transaction through online channels or contact-less mechanisms. Included in the system is the availability of pertinent forms on online portals and the means to submit them through websites to minimize the need for face-to-face visits to government offices.
Violators of the proposed Act shall be penalized with imprisonment of two months or a fine of from P1,000 up to P50,000, or both.
Pursuant to Republic Act No. 11469 or the “Bayanihan To Heal As One Act of 2020,” Congress shall maintain its oversight function over the implementation of the Act and shall monitor its implementation in all LGUs.
The proposed “New Normal for the Workplace and Public Spaces Act of 2020” shall expire after three years upon its effectivity, or sooner, upon the declaration of the President to be issued as recommended by the IATF when a viable vaccine has contained or eradicated COVID-19.
Other authors of the bill are Deputy Speakers Luis Raymund Villafuerte Jr., Paolo Duterte and Loren Legarda, Majority Leader Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, Reps. Eric Yap (Party-list, ACT CIS), Maria Laarni Cayetano (2nd District, Taguig City-Pateros), Michael Defensor (Party-list ANAKALUSUGAN), and "Kuya" Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado (1st District, Bulacan).