Apr 30, 2020

Eight house leaders have filed a bill defining the “new normal” due to the COVID-19 crisis. Under House Bill No. 6623 or the “New Normal for the Workplace and Public Spaces Act of 2020,” several measures that are currently being implemented by the government in response to the coronavirus pandemic will be extended for three years or “sooner upon official declaration of the President.”

“Guided foremost by the principles of protecting the most vulnerable, ensuring health and safety for all, guaranteeing respect for human rights, and facilitating the inclusive and holistic economic well-being of all sectors and industries, this proposed bill envisions a whole-of-society approach in ushering a hopeful yet well-planned path towards ‘the new normal,’” the bill states in its explanatory note.

Led by House speaker Alan Cayetano, House Bill No. 6632 was co-authored by Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte, Loren Legarda and Paolo Duterte, House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez, ACT-CIS partylist Rep. Eric Yap, Anakalusugan partylist Rep. Mike Defensor and Bulacan Rep. Jonathan Sy-Alvarado. Here we break down the important things to know about the proposed 18-page bill:

What are the general precautions?

In general, the bill includes the mandatory wearing of face masks in public spaces and workplaces and mandatory physical and social distancing. Under the bill, persons who fail to wear a mask in public shall be issued citation tickets with a corresponding P1,000 fine and will be mandated to render one-day community service.

While public transportation may resume, passengers will be required to wash or sanitize their hands before boarding the vehicle and should be seated a seat apart all the while wearing face masks.  A contactless payment system shall also be implemented.

Motorcycle taxis, on the other hand, will remain suspended since the rider and passenger are too close to each other.

What will happen to schools?

For the education sector, all classes and school activities “shall remain suspended until further notice without prejudice to the academic freedom and levels of autonomy enjoyed by institutions of higher learning in the governance of their own academic affairs” making it subject to consultation with the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).

This being said, both private and public schools should come up with online platforms to allow students to learn online. The bill notes, however, that no student shall be unreasonably penalized for their inability to participate in online classes due to connectivity and lack of gadgets or equipment. 

How about businesses?

Food businesses

The bill requires malls and other commercial establishments to limit the number of people inside their premises. In foodservice workplaces, operations will initially resume only with take-out/delivery service before gradually re-introducing dine-in services. 

When dine-in service resumes, food establishments will be asked to maintain a two-meter distance between tables. Moreover, restaurants can no longer offer buffets or salad bars and their menu booklets should also be disposable. 

Commercial stores and centers

Banks, boutiques, groceries, supermarkets and shopping malls shall establish a maximum number of people inside their establishment at any given time and should limit entry. They are also asked to promote online transactions and shopping services.

Standard offices 

Physical meetings are discouraged in standard offices as much as possible. Furthermore these offices (including call centers) shall likewise limit the number of people who use elevators and to put more vending machines instead of opening cafeterias. 

Businesses concerned with leisure

For salons, parlors and spas, wearing face masks and gloves are mandatory as well as frequent handwashing and sanitizing of salon tools should also be observed. 

Industrial workspaces

In construction sites, factories, and other industrial workplaces, on-site and production schedules need to be adjusted and the use of co-workers’ tools and equipment shall be limited.

Overall, it requires private businesses to come up with a management plan for the “new normal” that contains the total number of employees allowed to work inside the office and the overall strategy for reporting of the workforce.

Furthermore, private employers should have concrete plans for managing employees who exhibit symptoms and/or confirmed to have tested for COVID-19.

What are the guidelines for public spaces?

Gatherings in government-managed public spaces as well as privately-managed spaces will be highly regulated. Privately-organized gatherings may be dispersed by the local government if it is proven that the persons involved are not following mandatory safety measures.

Are there any additional guidelines?

The bill also orders the Philippine Statistics Authority to fast-track the implementation of the national ID system as government agencies will also be required to create online platforms so the public can do their transactions on the internet.

Likewise, the Department of Information and Communications Technology is also tasked to fast-track the rollout of the national broadband program.

What will be the penalties for violating the new regulations?

Offenses committed in relation to the New Normal measures shall be punishable by imprisonment of two months or a fine of not less than P1,000 but not more than P50,000, or both.

If passed into law, until when will it be in effect?

The proposed “New Normal for the Workplace and Public Spaces Act of 2020” shall expire after three years upon its effectivity or sooner, depending on the declaration of the President to be issued as recommended by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases when a viable vaccine has contained or eradicated COVID-19.



Header photo courtesy of Inquirer.net

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TAGS: Alan Peter Cayetano bill 6623 call centers construction workers covid-19 pandemic food industry general community quarantine Loren Legarda new normal bill philppine food industry public spaces