THE Philippine Stock Exchange, Inc. (PSE) is reminding shareholders of publicly listed firms of their options to participate in annual stockholders’ meetings (ASM) as the virus outbreak persists.

In a memo on its website Tuesday, the operator of the local bourse said investors may remotely participate in ASMs scheduled over the coming weeks as a precautionary measure to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

“To mitigate the risk of contracting COVID-19, stockholders may prefer to participate in the ASM and vote through remote communication, instead of a face-to-face meeting,” it said.

Republic Act No. 11232, or the Revised Corporation Code of the Philippines, allows companies to participate in ASMs either remotely, in absentia or through a proxy. The requirements and procedures for these options are up to the companies to establish.

“For corporations vested with public interest such as publicly-listed companies, stockholders may vote in the election of directors through remote communication or in absentia, notwithstanding the absence of a provision to that effect in the by-laws,” the PSE said.

The memo came as the PSE said it talks with the Securities and Exchange Commission for other possible safeguards to protect investors.

Over the next few weeks, listed companies that have scheduled their ASMs are Roxas Holdings, Inc. (Mar. 18); BDO Leasing and Finance, Inc. (Mar. 20); Xurpas, Inc. (Mar. 24); Chelsea Logistics and Infrastructure Holdings Corp. (Mar. 26); and Phoenix Petroleum Philippines, Inc. (Mar. 27).

More corporations scheduled their ASMs from April to June, and are yet to announce any adjustments in schedule in light of COVID-19.

The Department of Health reported nine new cases of COVID-19 infection yesterday, bringing the total cases in the Philippines to 33 as of late afternoon. President Rodrigo R. Duterte had earlier announced a State of Public Health Emergency in the country due to the outbreak.

Classes across all levels in Metro Manila have been suspended until Mar. 14. Malls and other commercial establishments likewise started checking temperatures of guests and provided alcohol and hand sanitizers at building entrances.

Several gatherings across the country have also been either cancelled or postponed as a precautionary measure to the outbreak.

Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III advised the public to practice preventive measures such as proper hand hygiene, cough etiquette and social distancing to prevent the virus from spreading.

“With the increasing number of cases, I implore everyone to fully cooperate with us in investigation and contact tracing activities… We also advise everyone to avoid visiting public places and/or attending mass gatherings at this critical time,” he said in a statement yesterday. — Denise A. Valdez