Nationwide round-up

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Senate committee to call for audit of workers displaced by coronavirus crisis

THE SENATE committee on labor, employment and human resource development will push for a labor audit as 7.3 million Filipino workers have so far been displaced by the economic downturn due to the coronavirus crisis. “That’s what we’re shooting for, a labor audit. We wanted to find out how many workers are affected, how many will be affected, what are we doing, and what can we do,” Senator Emmanuel Joel J. Villanueva said in an online briefing Tuesday. He said the committee will also look into the job market under the “new normal” in order to assist government agencies in the retraining or upskilling of workers. “One of the strategy is to retool, reskill or upskill… How much additional fund will we be needing for this?” He noted that this will help workers become employable as the country transitions. Mr. Villanueva further said that the government must address the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) along with improving policies for workers to enable the country to recover from the crisis. “The path to economic recovery has two stumbling blocks, one the continuing increase of COVID-19 cases, and the lack of a clear set of policies for our workers,” he said.— Charmaine A. Tadalan

Senators push for suspension of online seller tax registration

Senator Risa N. Hontiveros-Baraquel on Tuesday asked the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to suspend until the end of the year the implementation of the circular requiring online sellers to register. She filed Senate Resolution No. 453 seeking to suspend the mandatory registration until Dec. 2020, pending the results of an inquiry on the taxation of individuals engaged in online business during the coronavirus crisis. “It is best for everybody’s interests if the BIR suspends the implementation of the memo until December 31, 2020, while government agencies review and craft better policy guidelines on how online entrepreneurs should register or pay taxes,” she said in a statement. The issuance of Revenue Memorandum Circular 60-2020 that directed online sellers to register until July 31 was slammed by senators, who deemed it was “ill-timed and insensitive.” The Department of Finance had explained that taxes will not be imposed on individuals earning up to P250,000 annually, but senators have argued that the registration will still be costly for online sellers. “All of this will entail administrative cost… kapag nakita niya ito, mawawalan ng gana (once they see this, they’ll lose the motivation),” Mr. Villanueva said in an online briefing. — Charmaine A. Tadalan

Team formed for policy on foreign nationals’ entry

A TECHNICAL working group has been formed to draft the country’s policy on the entry of foreign nationals amid the continued coronavirus threat. Palace Spokesperson Harry L. Roque said this was prompted by one embassy’s request for the Philippine government to allow its nationals to fly in, particularly those who have work permits as well as consultants needed in flagship projects. He did not name the country. Under current guidelines, the only foreign nationals allowed to travel to the Philippines are spouses of Filipinos and diplomats. — Gillian M. Cortez

CHED launches resource-sharing app for higher education

THE COMMISSION on Higher Education (CHED) has launched an online application that allows access to higher education course materials in various formats. “Philippine CHED Connect… is very timely during the transition to the new normal as it contains higher education course materials in text, media and other digital assets. I have always asserted over the past months that learning must continue, quarantine or no quarantine,” CHED Chairman Prospero E. De Vera III said during the virtual launch and press conference on Tuesday. The materials are in text, audio, and video format, which can be used for teaching, learning and research purposes. The resources cover a wide range of fields. “We will develop the protocols on expanding it later in consultation with universities and our partners both internationally and locally,” he said. Meanwhile, Mr. De Vera also announced that CHED is already coordinating with the Department of Health for the guidelines on holding face-to-face classes. The rules will be presented to the national task force handling the coronavirus response for approval, then to be pilot-tested in July. In areas where there is limited or no connectivity, Mr. De Vera said universities can combine “limited face-to-face and off-classroom or off campus activities.” — Genshen L. Espedido

Almost 500 complaints filed on cash aid distribution

ALMOST 500 complaints, mostly against local officials, have been filed over alleged mishandling of funds under the coronavirus cash aid program for poor households. Palace Spokesperson Harry L. Roque, in a Tuesday briefing, said there are 496 complaints involving 728 suspects based on data from the Department of Interior and Local Government. Of the total, 157 cases have been filed before the fiscal’s office. The cash aid is a national program under the Department of Social Welfare and Development, but distribution was delegated to local governments. Meanwhile, President Rodrigo R. Duterte said he is vouching for the integrity of his appointed officials after the Ombudsman’s office launched a probe on Department of Health (DoH) officials, including Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III, over their response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak. In his talk to the nation Monday, Mr. Duterte said he will not interfere with the move of Ombudsman Samuel R. Martires, but trusts his officials. “With due respect to the Ombudsman, the Honorable Martires… I will say I believe in the honesty and integrity of my people,” he said. — Gillian M. Cortez