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House bill to make mask-wearing, distancing mandatory after ECQ

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PHILSTAR/EDD GUMBAN

HOUSE leaders filed a bill Monday seeking to lay down the post-quarantine rules for people venturing outside the home, including mandatory mask-wearing and social distancing.

House Bill 6623 or the New Normal for the Workplace and Public Spaces Act of 2020 makes the wearing of masks in public spaces and workplaces mandatory, and will require the availability of hand washing or sanitizing stations in “high-touch” areas, physical and social distancing of at least one meter, and temperature checks.

The bill sets the penalty for failing to wear a mask in public at P1,000.

Gatherings as well as the flow of people in government-managed spaces such as public markets, parks and plazas, among others, will be “highly regulated” and subject to guidelines set out in so-called “new normal” permits by the local government unit (LGU).

Privately-organized gatherings in “privately-managed spaces” will also be “highly regulated” and dispersed by the LGU “after determination by authorities that the said gathering is not observing the Universal and Mandatory Safety Measures.”

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The operation of motorcycle taxis will remain suspended to prevent the spread of the virus through shared helmets and close physical contact between the rider and the passengers.

Passengers in all types of public transportation will be required to wash or sanitize their hands before boarding the vehicle, be seated one seat apart, wear a face mask at all times, and be made to pay through “contactless” methods.

The bill provides for “green lanes” on the road network for health care, emergency, law enforcement, and supply-chain vehicles.

The bill also proposes the suspension of classes and other school activities until further notice “without prejudice to the academic freedom and levels of autonomy of institutions of higher learning,” provided that no student is unreasonably penalized for their inability to participate in online learning.

Educational institutions are required to establish online learning platforms. Funding for research and the development of systems for learning continuity during times of crisis will be made available by the national government.

The bill also requires all private commercial, industrial, and other forms of businesses to submit a “New Normal Workforce and Workplace Management Plan” to the LGU, which will verify the businesses’ compliance with safeguards prior to the resumption of their operations.

Food service workplaces are allowed to resume operations with take-out and delivery service only, while gradually re-introducing in-store dining. The bill recommended that buffets and salad bars be discontinued temporarily and to create more space in the dining area.

Malls and other commercial establishments are required to limit the number of people inside their premises and implement contact-less sales and customer service.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) will be required to fast-track the implementation of the Philippine Identification System Act to facilitate contact-tracing. The bill also calls for the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to expedite and fully implement a national broadband program.

Other government agencies will be required to develop and implement a system for facilitating government transactions through online platforms.

HB 6623 violations are punishable by imprisonment of two months or a maximum fine of P50,000.

If passed, the measure will be effective for three years from the date of its enactment or sooner upon official declaration of the end of the crisis by the President, on the recommendation of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging and Infectious Diseases.

HB 6623 was filed by Speaker Alan Peter S. Cayetano; Majority Leader Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez; ACT-CIS Party-list Representative and appropriations chair Eric G. Yap; Anakalusugan Party-list Rep. and public accounts chair Michael T. Defensor; Bulacan Rep. and good government and public accountability chair Jose Antonio R. Sy-Alvarado; and Deputy Speakers Luis Raymund F. Villafuerte, Paolo Z. Duterte and Loren B. Legarda. — Genshen L. Espedido

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