DTI sees return of 500,000 jobs under Alert Level 1
MANILA, Philippines — Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez on Monday said the downgrade to the least restrictive Alert Level 1 could bring back around 500,000 jobs since business establishments would need to rehire more of their workers to meet an expected increase in consumer demand.
Although all sectors have already been reopened under the previous alert level, Lopez said in an interview with radio station dzBB that some businesses were not allowed to operate at full capacities and those allowed did not reach 100-percent occupancy because there were not that many people going out.
This is expected to change under alert level 1 because “we expect that the public would be encouraged to go outside and also work in the office. More people would then be going out and going back to restaurants and retail stores,” he said.
Alfredo Pascual, president of the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), said the move to alert level 1 showed that the country was “prepared to live with the virus by treating it as endemic.”
Allowing people to return to their offices and workplaces “will also address mental health issues caused by prolonged isolation and a lack of regular face-to-face interactions,” Pascual pointed out.
“We note that the guidelines allow businesses to choose the best work arrangement for them, whether working from home, on-site, or a hybrid of the two. We must recognize the undeniable benefits of a hybrid setup in terms of cost savings, reduced need for home-office travel, and improved quality of life for people, such as working mothers. We believe that the hybrid work model is one of the pandemic’s positive lessons,” he added.
MAP also hoped that schools would follow suit and return to full face-to-face learning “as our children’s education has suffered greatly as a result of the pandemic.”
In his press briefing on Monday, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said that based on the initial projection by the National Economic and Development Authority, the shift of areas to alert levels 1 and 2 would translate to P9.4-billion worth of economic activity a week and bring back 170,000 jobs if alert level 1 could be sustained for three months.
Antigen test rule
As more people return to their workplaces, the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) also reminded employers to avoid rapid antigen tests for COVID-19 screening even on workers who have no symptoms and have no known exposure to COVID-19 cases.
“We follow the protocols of the DOH (Department of Health). We also discourage companies from doing asymptomatic testing, from using antigen tests for screening,” Labor Assistant Secretary Ma. Teresita Cucueco said in a briefing on Monday.
“Even in the guidelines, it’s very clear that it’s not required. If they still do that, please report it to the department,” she added.
The DOH has long said that rapid tests were appropriate to test only people with COVID-19 symptoms and those who have been exposed to infected individuals.
However, unvaccinated workers still have to undergo regular swab tests for COVID-19 at their own expense when they work on-site in Metro Manila and other areas under alert level 1.
Through the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases’ Resolutions 148-B and 149 issued last Nov. 11 and 18, respectively, the government ordered businesses to require employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to work on-site.
Unvaccinated employees who physically report for work have to pay for their own swab test at least once every two weeks. The “no work, no pay” rule may be applied to them if they are unable to get themselves tested for COVID-19.
—WITH A REPORT FROM JEROME ANING
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