DoTr reviewing use of plastic divider in motorcycle taxis

THE Department of Transportation (DoTr) is studying the possibility of using a plastic divider in motorcycle taxis as a health safety protocol against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). In a briefing on Sunday, DoTr road sector consultant Alberto Suansing said the proposal is being taken up by the national Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) handling the COVID-19 response after calls by the public and several local governments to allow back-riding in motorcycles, which is prohibited across all quarantine categories. “Ina-analayze ‘yan sa IATF and tinatanong sa amin sa DoTr (It is being analyzed by the IATF and that is also being asked from the DoTr),” he said. Hard plastic dividers between the driver and passenger are already being used in other Asian countries. Iloilo Governor Arthur R. Defensor, Jr., among the local officials pushing for a lifting of the ban on back-riding as motorcycles are an integral means of transport for many areas, presented earlier this month a sample divider he himself designed. Motorcycle ride-hailing firm Angkas also demonstrated over the weekend a sample divider that they intend to use. The IATF has prohibited back-riding, including among married couples or people within the same household, citing physical distancing concerns. — Gillian M. Cortez

Bus firms told: Pay separation benefit to retrenched workers

BUS COMPANIES have been reminded of their legal duty to pay separation benefits to retrenched drivers and conductors following a mass layoff in one of the biggest operators in Luzon. In a briefing on Sunday, Department of Transportation (DoTr) road sector consultant Alberto Suansing said bus operators are mandated to provide a separation package to workers affected by downsizing due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis. “Dapat may separation pay… empleyado nila ‘yan (There should be a separation pay because those are their employees,” Mr. Suansing said. Over the weekend, provincial bus operator Victory Liner, Inc. laid off 400 workers, including 300 drivers and conductors who were still under probationary status. Alan A. Tanjusay, spokesperson of the Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines who was in the same briefing, said the Supreme Court has previously ruled that even workers on probation are entitled to separation wages and benefits. He said, “May ruling Supreme Court na ang bus company at bus driver at conductor, meron silang (There is a Supreme Court ruling that the bus company and the bus driver and conductors have an) employer-employee relationship.” — Gillian M. Cortez

Over 1,700 OFWs to arrive this week

MORE THAN 1,700 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), some with their dependents, from North Africa, the Middle East, and Macau are scheduled to arrive this week through special flights arranged by the government for those displaced by the global coronavirus crisis. On Monday, 277 Filipinos from Libya, Tunisia and Algeria will be home, according to the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE). “The arriving workers were employed in the oil industry and medical establishments, with some who finished their contracts while mostly were displaced due to the temporary shutdown of companies due to the COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic,” DoLE said in a statement on Sunday. The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), in a separate statement, also announced that four flights carrying 1,464 OFWs from Lebanon, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Macau are expected this week. As of June 20, DFA said it has repatriated a total of 51,113 OFWs since February. — Gillian M. Cortez