Labor groups ready to assist in OFWs repatriation

THE GOVERNMENT may tap labor groups to augment its manpower for assisting returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), the Associated Labor Union-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines said on Sunday. “This cannot be done by the government alone. In fact, the POEA (Philippine Overseas Employment Administration) and OWWA (Overseas Workers Welfare Administration) are overwhelmed,” Spokesperson Alan A. Tanjusay said via telephone. “They have to ask help and support… to supplement sa capacity and logistics ng gobyerno (of the government).” He also recommended that the government consult the concerned sector to improve the system in place. For one, he cited, it is still unclear whether the flight and accommodation expense will be shouldered by the manning agency or the government. Meanwhile, the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) said they are preparing to submit the data collected from its recently launched OFW tracker system to the government’s task force on coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) to improve the repatriation system. “Knowing the airlines the OFWs used, their health condition, local addresses and other relevant data in the tracker will help government dispense assistance they need,” DoLE said. Information from the tracker, called OFW Assistance Information System (OASIS), will also be used for organizing swab testing for COVID-19 and arrange transport and accommodation services. More than 41,000 displaced OFWs, both land-based workers and seafarers, have returned since February. DoLE said over 300,000 OFWs have lost their jobs due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. — Charmaine A. Tadalan and Gillian M. Cortez

Senator calls for worker reskilling, upskilling

WITH AT least 7.25 million Filipinos reported to have lost their jobs in April due to the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus crisis, a senator has called for the reskilling and upskilling of workers to help them adapt to the “new normal.” Senator Juan Edgardo M. Angara, who chairs the finance committee, said the government must help capacitate the labor force for the growing shift to digital platforms. “During this pandemic, many businesses have to cut costs or start exploring new ways of making money. We cannot operate on a business as usual basis anymore,” he said in a statement Sunday. Under Senate Bill No. 1470, or the National Digital Transformation Act, the senator proposed to establish and institutionalize a national strategy that will integrate digital technology into government policies. The strategy will outline skills development, infrastructure projects, and research and innovation plans. It also proposes the inclusion of information and communications technology in the school curriculum and training programs. — Charmaine A. Tadalan

Job opportunities open in BPO ‘resurgence’

MORE JOB opportunities are opening in the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector, according to the Labor department. “We received information that some big companies have already given notice for their requirements, one of which needing at least 4,000 seats to be filled up before September,” Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III said on Sunday. Mr. Bello said they recently met with the IT Business Process Association of the Philippines, which gave assurance that the sector will see a ‘resurgence’ and that hiring will continue. The meeting was prompted by a survey conducted by the BPO Industry Employees Network indicating that four out of 10 workers were placed on floating or ‘no-work-no-pay’ status during the strict lockdown period. BPOs were among the first industries allowed to resume operations, but on a limited capacity to observe health safety protocols. — Gillian M. Cortez

Bills filed for bike-to-work incentives, road congestion tax for motorists

A LAWMAKER has called for the inclusion of tax breaks and other incentives for people who will cycle to work in the proposed Bicycle Law. “Providing incentives for people who bike-to-work is a small price to pay for its immeasurable benefits. This would translate to billions of economic opportunities and billions of savings on capital expenditures,” Ang Probinsyano Party-List Rep. Ronnie L. Ong said in a statement on Sunday. Apart from setting up bicycles lanes, he said creating a cycling culture can provide a long-term solution to the traffic gridlock in Metro Manila and other highly urbanized areas, which costs an estimated P3.5 billion in economic losses per day.

Meanwhile, another bill seeking to impose a P500 tax on all vehicles passing through congested roads in the capital on weekdays was filed at the House of Representatives. “There shall be levied, collected, and paid a congestion tax on the heavy-traffic roads identified by the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) from 7 o’clock in the morning to 6 o’clock in the evening from Monday to Friday of the week the amount of five hundred (P500.00) daily to be paid by every vehicle passing through the congested roads on top of the fees that may be imposed by the local government unit,” states House Bill 6945. The author of the bill, AAMBIS-OWA Party-List Rep. Sharon A. Garin, said they will still study whether the tax will cover both private and public vehicles. “Well, the objective is more on private vehicles. But further assessment will be made once the bill is tackled by the committee,” she told BusinessWorld via Viber message on Sunday. Aside from congestion tax, the bill also seeks to impose additional taxes on newly-acquired vehicles, with rates ranging from P3,000 to P1.1 million, depending on the level of carbon dioxide emission. The measure also taxes second-hand vehicles based on engine power with rates ranging from P5,000 to P50,000. Taxes are also proposed for airline passengers, water extraction, wastewater, tourism sites, incineration operations, and fishing operations, among others. — Genshen L. Espedido

Lacson says communist members laying down arms ahead of anti-terror law signing

Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson — Cesar Tomambo/SENATE PRIB

SENATOR PANFILO M. Lacson on Sunday said some members of the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, have surrendered ahead of the signing of the anti-terrorism bill. He cited that 27 NPAs from Quezon, Laguna and Mindoro were reported to have laid down their arms, which Mr. Lacson said intensified the disinformation campaign against the measure. “An Army commander reported that in anticipation of the passage of the Anti-Terrorism Bill, the NPAs have started surrendering. 27 in just 2 days in Quezon, Laguna and Mindoro alone,” he said in a social media post. “That is why, he said, their fronts have become busier with their disinformation campaign.” Mr. Lacson cited that the CPP-NPA has been designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the United States Secretary of State as early as August 2002. In December 2017, President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed a proclamation identifying the CPP-NPA as a terrorist organization. The anti-terrorism bill was transmitted to the Office of the President on June 9, which starts the 30-day period wherein Mr. Duterte can sign or veto the measure. It will lapse into law if he fails to act within the period. — Charmaine A. Tadalan