Bong Go enjoins employers to comply with COVID-19 safety protocols; bats for more free face masks
MANILA, Philippines – With the gradual reopening of the economy, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go, chairman of the Senate Committee on Health urged employers to implement alternative work arrangements and strictly enforce necessary health and safety protocols in the workplace to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 while ensuring that essential business operations are unhampered.
He encouraged employers both in the public and private sectors to further develop work guidelines, consistent with the minimum health standards required, that take into account the needs of employees in the workplace and the risks of COVID-19 transmission that physical work may entail.
“We must live with the realities of the pandemic. Crucial sa new normal ang pagkakaroon ng sapat na safeguards laban sa sakit sa pang-araw araw nating pamumuhay (IT is crucial to habe enough safeguards against the disease in our daily lives.) he said.
“Always observe social distancing, frequent hand washing and respiratory etiquette by wearing masks and face shields at all times. In addition, maintain hygiene measures for frequently touched surfaces, equipment and tools and, most importantly, quickly identify and isolate workers with COVID-19 symptoms to stop further transmission,” he added.
Alternative work arrangements
Go also asked employers to provide individualized alternative work arrangements to further mitigate the risk of an outbreak in workplaces when possible.
Such arrangements may include allowing employees to: (1) work remotely; (2) fulfill scheduled hours through non-standard work schedules; or (3) adjust their arrival and departure times to minimize exposure.
Go also agreed with the Department of Trade and Industry that there is a need to strictly enforce guidelines in work places.
Particularly, DTI cited that the “no talking, no eating” rule, or avoiding conversation and consumption of food in confined areas is the least-observed health protocol among other policies to curb COVID-19 transmission.
Free face masks please
Meanwhile, Go reiterated his appeal to the government to distribute more free masks in areas frequented by people to ensure their compliance and the safety of the community while allowing businesses to thrive.
He acknowledged that many Filipino families hit hard by the crisis do not have sufficient resources to buy masks, and urged government to prioritize the provision of free masks to poor and vulnerable sectors.
“Inoobliga natin silang magsuot ng face masks kahit halos wala na nga silang pambili ng pagkain. Uunahin siyempre nila ang bumili ng pagkain kaysa bumili ng mask,” Go said.
(We require them to wear face masks even if they hardly have enough resources or food. Of course they will prioritize food over face masks.)
“Para naman mabuhay, kailangan nilang bumalik sa trabaho pero hindi sila makakapagtrabaho nang maayos kung hindi sila protektado. Kaya dapat lang na bigyan natin sila ng libreng masks,” said the Senator.
(They also need to go back to work, but they cannot work well or properly of they are not fully protected. That is why they should be given free face masks.)
Following his initial appeal in August 2020, a program was launched in response to President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive to strictly enforce the minimum health standards and provide free masks to vulnerable sectors that included households with senior citizens, pregnant women, persons with special health conditions, Social Amelioration Program (SAP) and Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) beneficiaries.
According to the Department of Trade and Industry, as of April 15, 2021, the project has produced and distributed over 30.8 million free reusable masks to the public.
Another 16.2 million are currently being manufactured or are in the process of procurement, post-qualification or delivery.
Of the initial figure, 13.7 million masks were provided to SAP and 4Ps beneficiaries in the National Capital Region, Region IV-A, Region VII, Region VI, Region XI, and Region III.
Supporting local workers, buy local
With his renewed appeal, Go called on the public to patronize and support the local industry, particularly the sewers and suppliers of raw materials used to make masks.
He urged the DTI and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority to support and train local manufacturers who can produce standard masks that pass health specifications.
“Government must prioritize buying locally-made masks to save jobs, and provide it to those who cannot afford to buy their own masks to help save lives. If we continue to strengthen the local production of masks, we will be providing livelihood for those who lost their jobs and at the same time, we can protect our countrymen from COVID-19,” said Go.
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