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Thursday, November 30, 2023

Economic reopening allows firms to absorb more workers

Amid a slow and painful journey to recovery, the government is optimistic about building back what it lost to the health crisis and regain pre-pandemic levels in the coming months.

The adoption of alert level system, initially in Metro Manila and then in other parts of the country, is expected to encourage more businesses to reopen and rehire workers.

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said the remaining 800,000 displaced workers may soon return to work with the reopening of the provincial economies placed under alert levels 2 and 3.

Metro Manila, which recently graduated from alert level 4, was allowed to reopen economic activities that require physical contact such as massage parlors, spas, nail salons, beauty salons, barbershops and cosmetic/aesthetic procedures.

Dine-in establishments are also allowed to operate at up to 30 percent for indoor dining and 50 percent for outdoor dining.

“If the area is over 70-percent vaccinated, then there’s an additional 20 percentage points more,” said Lopez.

For fitness studios, gyms and venues for individual non-contact exercise and sports, clients and crews are required to wear mask at all times while group activities are still prohibited.

In-person religious gatherings for necrological services, wakes, inurnment and funerals have also been allowed.

Other permitted activities are venues for social events like parties, wedding receptions, engagement parties, wedding anniversaries, debut, birthday parties, family reunions and bridal or baby showers; meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions; visitor and tourist attractions like libraries, museums, galleries, exhibits, parks, plazas, public gardens and scenic viewpoints; amusement or theme parks; recreational venues like internet cafes, billiard halls, arcades, bowling alleys, skating rinks, archery halls and swimming pools.

Creative activities like film, music and TV production subject to the joint guidelines as maybe issued by the Department of Trade, Department of Labor and Employment, and Department to Health as well as cinemas and movie houses are all permitted activities.

The government also allowed licensure examinations and entrance or qualifying exams to resume.

Continuous operations

“Now businesses are guaranteed of continuity to operate. Outdoor activities are open for both vaccinated and unvaccinated patrons, but only vaccinated clients are allowed for indoor activities like in the gyms and indoor dining. Establishment workers are required to be vaccinated, whether the business activity is indoor or outdoor,” Lopez said.

“The only remaining activities that are yet to be reopened are those involving kids’ amusement, karaoke and other forms of entertainment. Practically all establishments are opened,” he said.

More than the opening of businesses, the youth may start going back to physical classes as the government initiates the preliminaries to pilot face-to-face classes in selected schools and colleges.

Based on the updates released by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases, more than 1,500 children aged 12 and up have been vaccinated. This signals the start of phased face-to-phase interaction in schools in areas where 70 percent of the population have received COVID-19 immunization.

The IATF said some 6 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines are bound to arrive within the fourth quarter, adding to the 90.4 million doses that arrived in the Philippines.

Vaccination in NCR already hit 70 percent.

Safety seal

In its latest announcement, the DTI said business establishments with safety seal will be granted an increase of 10 percentage points in operational or venue capacity.

The latest directive is contained in the “Supplemental Guidelines Relative to the Implementing Guidelines of the Safety Seal Certification Program” signed by different agencies.

Lopez said the increase in allowable occupancy was meant to encourage businesses to apply for the safety seal and strengthen health protocols in establishments and workplaces.    

“This seal is one of the government’s measures to restart the economy under the new normal and increase employment opportunities by making the reopening of business more viable for operation,” he said.

Local government units’ contact tracing applications will be considered in lieu of the StaySafe.PH while DILG is working on the integration of StaySafe.PH with other contract tracing applications.  

DILG Secretary Eduardo Año said that in the absence of the digital contact tracing application for those establishments or offices applying for the Safety Seal Certification, the LGU-mandated applications they are currently using will be considered.   

“The DILG is in the process of integrating the application with other existing applications initiated by the local government units to effectively contain the spread of COVID-19,” Año Said.  

The supplemental guidelines also designated DOLE and LGUs as the issuing authority for the safety seal for information technology and business process management and for dental clinics.   

In addition, the supplemental guidelines require establishments and workplaces to designate safety officers who will be in-charge of enforcing public health standards in their areas.  

“Our safety officers play a key role in boosting the overall economic productivity of our firms.  When workers are assured of their safety and health at their respective workplaces, work quality and productivity are also enhanced,” said Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III.

Safety officers who have not yet undergone the required occupational safety and health training may avail of the free OSH training offered at DOLE or at any DOLE-accredited training organizations.  

The safety seal of tourism-oriented businesses and venues, on top of the DOT accreditation, strengthens the government’s effort to revive the tourism industry, one of the hardest-hit sectors during the pandemic, said Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat.  

“These new guidelines in the Safety Seal certification program heighten the confidence of the public to patronize compliant tourist-oriented establishments while ensuring the health and safety of everyone concerned,” Secretary Puyat added.  

The supplemental guidelines also list some health protocols such as the promotion of proper disposal of face masks through signages in designated facilities. Proprietors of air-conditioned indoor establishments and workplaces are also encouraged to procure carbon dioxide detectors to better monitor the adequacy of ventilation.    

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