#COVID-19 Regional Updates (03/26/20)

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IATF OKs DA-endorsed food transport protocol

THE Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases has approved the food resiliency protocol endorsed by the Department of Agriculture (DA) for faster movement of major food commodities to Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon. Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said the protocol covers free movement of agricultural personnel such as farmers, fishers, employees of food processing and manufacturing companies, and food supply chain logistics providers. “Iniiwasan po natin na mayroong mabubulok na mga gulay at iba pang produkto dahil sa mabagal na galaw ng mga ito. Maliban dito, iniiwasan nating tumaas ang presyo ng mga pagkain at pangunahing bilihin (We are avoiding food wastage due to slow movement of cargo transport. We are also preventing higher prices for basic food commodities),” Mr. Dar said. Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo M. Año also issued an advisory to local governments units (LGUs) on Wednesday to ensure the uninterrupted movement of goods. “All LGUs are advised to adhere to protocols prescribed by the IATF and concerned NGAs (national government agencies) in ensuring food availability and sufficiency during the COVID-19 crisis,” Mr. Año said. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave

BoC issues ECCs at airport

THE BUREAU of Immigration has started issuing emigration clearance certificates (ECC) at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport to minimize crowding at its office and physical contact between officers and holders of a temporary visitors visa. An ECC is issued to temporary visitors who stayed in the country for more than six months and holders of residence, work, or student visa who would like to leave the country “for good.” “We have put this temporary measure in place to prevent the influx of foreign nationals leaving the country who will be applying to process their ECCs, essentially minimizing physical contact with the traveling public,” Commissioner Jaime H. Morente said in a statement. Mr. Morente said they have also suspended biometrics capturing and issuance of special security registration numbers for processing of ECCs in observance of physical distancing. The commissioner assured that they still match the application with the derogatory database to ensure that the applicants have no pending obligation with the government. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

Cebu airport closed to all inbound international flight passengers starting March 27

ALL INBOUND passengers on international flights will no longer be allowed to enter Cebu through the Mactan Cebu International Airport starting March 27 as the entire province is placed under enhanced community quarantine to mitigate the spread of the new coronavirus known as COVID-19. Governor Gwendolyn F. Garcia, in a streamed media briefing Thursday, said one of the reasons for the stricter protocols is to lessen the burden of monitoring newly-arrived people who are required to undergo a 14-day quarantine. Speaking in Cebuano, Ms. Garcia cited several local government units (LGU) around the province, such as Liloan, that are struggling with keeping watch of thousands of people who could potentially be carriers of the virus. Outbound passengers will still be allowed as well as the free flow of cargo movement in all airports and seaports. Inter-LGU transport services will also be restricted. The enhanced community quarantine will be in effect until further notice. — MSJ

BPOs in Davao City checked for compliance to DTI rules

A 2018 file photo of a call center in Davao City. — BW FILE PHOTO

DAVAO CITY — Business process outsourcing (BPOs) companies here are being checked by a joint team from the city government and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) for compliance to guidelines on continued operations.

“You only have two options based on the DTI memo: skeletal workforce provided they observe social distancing and employees should have a temporary accommodation within the vicinity of the workplace with shuttle service; and work from home arrangement. If they cannot comply they must close down,” Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio said over the state-run Davao City Disaster Radio.

Under the national government’s state of health emergency policy, BPOs are among the sectors allowed to continue operations.

DTI issued a memorandum circular outlining the rules that must be observed by outsourcing firms while the Davao City government also released localized guidelines last Monday.

Samuel R. Matunog, president of ICT-Davao, Inc., the industry council for the Davao region’s information and communications technology sector, said they have reminded members not to waste this concession from the government.

“Government is providing a way to maintain the operation and for us not to lose our clients along the way and provide employment to our workers. To that extent, BPOs will be able to comply and we hope they will be able to follow guidelines,” Mr. Matunog said in a telephone interview.

As of Monday, 26 BPOs have been inspected, according to the mayor.

One call center, Six Eleven, already has about 40% of its employees on home-based arrangement.

“(It’s) those accounts that can be done from home. We lent them computers and all necessary hardware,” Six Eleven owner Joji Ilagan-Bian said in a text message.

For those still reporting to the office, Ms. Bian said they have set up a foot bath and temperature check in all entrances, and social distancing is observed.

“We enforced that strictly by actually removing the chairs in between so the agents will be disciplined to observe social distancing while at work. We also have our floor sanitized every five days,” she said.

Ms. Bian said accommodations and shuttle service are provided for those who require these.

“We understand that we have to be proactive now and really follow strict protocols from our government. We are also doing our utmost best to protect our people and to ensure their safety,” she said. — Maya M. Padillo





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