Millions of workers return to work today, June 1, after being on lockdown for more than two months, but the country’s largest labor group said they were worried about the lack of safeguards against COVID-19.
READ: Cases surge; GCQ in MM
Amid such concerns, the Palace reminded the public to strictly follow health protocols as Metro Manila and other regions shifted to a general community quarantine (GCQ) that allows most businesses to reopen.
In a statement, the Associated Labor Unions (ALU) urged employers to comply with the safety and health guidelines in the workplace, and to provide employees with personal protective equipment and to orient them on new safety and health procedures.
Th ALU also asked companies to be less strict in carrying out tardiness penalties given the limited mass transportation that will be available under a GCQ.
The group also accused the Department of Labor and Employment of exposing workers to wider abuses by allowing reduced work hours through job sharing and other flexible work schemes and giving companies the license to reduce at will the existing regional minimum wage rates and existing benefits, including the negotiated wage rates and benefits agreed upon through collective bargaining agreements.
Palace spokesman Harry Roque sought the “concerted effort of everyone” to follow the rules under the GCQ, such as observing social distancing and wearing of face masks in public places.
He said the government cannot fight COVID-19 alone and needs the people’s cooperation.
“The sacrifices of our people in the past 70 or so days are laudable and we must not put these to naught. It maybe difficult for some, especially those who will physically report [for work], but we live in extraordinary times and situation,”Roque said.
The Palace official also assured the public that measures are in place to ensure their safety.
“We have issued guidelines that apply to workplaces, employers, and workers,” he said.
“The administration… has put in place interventions and measures following minimum public health standards to ensure the safety of Filipinos,” he said.
“As more sectors and industries begin to operate, let us continue cooperating with authorities in enforcing quarantine protocols,” he added.
Roque urged the public to “take care of each other” by wearing face masks and shields, maintaining physical distancing, staying at home when needed, and avoiding crowded places.
Starting June 1, areas such as Metro Manila, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Pangasinan, Albay, and Davao City will be under GCQ after more than two months of strict movement restrictions to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The quarantine was eased even as cases COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the country.
As of May 30, there were 17,224 COVID-19 cases in the country, with 3,808 recoveries and 950 deaths.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) said it is ready for Metro Manila’s shift to a GCQ.
Joint Task Force COVID Shield Commander Police Lieutenant General Guillermo Eleazar said it would be more challenging from a law enforcement standpoint but said the police are up to the task.
He said police will still conduct random checks among motorists to check if they are authorized to be outside of their residences, or if they are workers in industries allowed to operate under the GCQ.
The Supreme Court will resume its full court and division sessions on June 2 and June 3, respectively, at the SC offices in Manila, Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta said on Sunday.
Peralta acknowledged that SC justices, including himself, experienced difficulty in conducting hearings online during the lockdown.
Nonetheless, Peralta said all quarantine protocols will be strictly implemented once justices hold their regular sessions.
The full court session hall and those used for division sessions have been rearranged to conform to quarantine rules on physical distancing.
While justices will start their regular person-to-person sessions, staff members of the justices may still continue to work from home and only those actually needed in the offices are required to report.
Peralta also announced that starting June 1, all courts in the country are fully operational but no walk-in court visitors will be entertained.
In Metro Manila, courts will be open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday. Courts outside Metro Manila will be open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Night courts and Saturday courts remain suspended.
Since mass transport is not yet in full operation, courts and offices of the courts may continue to function at work with a skeleton staff, he said.
Filing of cases and pleadings may be done either manually or online.
Meanwhile, trial court hearings through video conferencing, including cases involving persons deprived of liberty, will continue in areas under GCQ.
Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez said the decision to maintain the use of video conferencing was made due to the success of the virtual trial proceedings involving the release of prisoners from jails during the public health emergency arising from the coronavirus disease.
Marquez said that since May 4, some 1,350 trial courts have conducted 7,624 hearings via video conferencing that resulted in the release of 22,522 prisoners who were mostly detained at the lockup cells of the Philippine National Police.
“Hence in GCQ areas, if a party wishes that a testimony of a witness be heard via video conferencing, the proper motion just needs to be filed in court, and the judge, using his or her sound discretion, can either grant or deny the motion,” Marquez said.
Video conferencing can be done in both criminal and civil cases.
The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases said religious gatherings will be allowed again starting June 1 in areas under the less restrictive modified GCQ, but only at 50 percent of the venue’s capacity.
Justice Secretary Menardo Gueverra, a member of the IATF, said churchgoers in areas under the MGCQ will still have to observe health standards to avoid contracting the novel coronavirus.
He said the task force, local government officials and the religious were still discussing the arrangements for GCQ areas.
President Rodrigo Duterte announced last week that all areas in the country will be placed under modified GCQ starting June 1, except for Metro Manila, Regions II, III, IV-A, and the provinces of Pangasinan and Albay and the cities of Davao, Baguio, and Iloilo, which will be under GCQ.
Cebu City will be under modified enhanced community quarantine.
Unlike in modified GCQ areas, religious gatherings in GCQ areas are not encouraged and should be limited to 10 persons in attendance.
Likewise, mass gatherings such as but not limited to movie screenings, concerts, sporting events and other entertainment activities, community assemblies and non-essential work gatherings are still prohibited.
Gatherings that are intended for the provision of critical government services and authorized humanitarian activities while observing the minimum health standards will be allowed.
Outdoor non-contact sports and other forms of exercise such as walking, jogging, running, biking, golf, swimming, tennis, badminton, equestrian and skateboarding are allowed as long as the wearing of face masks, the maintenance of social distancing protocols and no sharing of equipment where applicable, are observed.
Meanwhile, Manila City Mayor Francisco Domagoso has warned barangays that he will not think twice to lock their area down if they neglect the government’s quarantine protocols under the GCQ.
The mayor issued the warning as the nation’s capital prepares for the transition to GCQ on Monday, June 1.
The Manila City government imposed hard lockdowns in Tondo 1 and Sampaloc due to rising number of COVID-19 confirmed cases. As of Friday, May 29, data from the Manila Health Department showed that Tondo 1 had 236 active cases of COVID while Sampaloc had 108 cases.
The mayor also said that the city government will not hesitate to close business who will not implement the “No Mask, No Entry” rule.
On Sunday, Domagoso placed the entire Barangay 847 under a 48-hour enhanced community quarantine.
The mayor issued the executive order upon the request of barangay officials from Barangay 847, and it will be effective from 12 a.m. of June 1 until 11:59 p.m. of June 2.
The mayor said that an ECQ has to be imposed given the four confirmed cases of COVID-19 and six suspected cases in Barangay 847.
Domagoso said that residents of Barangay 847 will be strictly confined to their residences and are prohibited from going outside their homes.
Around 300 families or 3,000 people reside in Barangay 847.
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