Regional Updates (03/28/21)

Hotels to suspend staycation check-in from March 29 to April 4 in NCR Plus area

THE DEPARTMENT of Tourism announced on Sunday that hotels in the NCR (National Capital Region) Plus area — covering Metro Manila and the surrounding provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal — are temporarily banned from accepting staycation guests, or residents booked for leisure, starting March 29 to April 4. “However, guests who are already billeted in these establishments by midnight on Sunday may continue to stay for the duration of their original booking. However, no new bookings will be allowed for the week,” the department said in a statement. The guidelines issued by Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat covers “all hotels, resorts, apartment hotels, motels and other such establishments.” The department said Christine Ann U. Ibarreta, president of the Hotel Sales and Marketing Association, “has assured tourism officials that guests with reservations within the ECQ (enhanced community quarantine) period will be allowed to rebook without penalty provided they booked directly with the hotels.” Accommodation establishments certified as quarantine or isolation facilities will continue to operate during the seven-day period. Tourism establishments and facilities in areas across the country not covered by the strict quarantine level are allowed to continue operations subject to national and local government rules.

Supreme Court adjusts filing deadline, consular offices closed in lockdown areas

THE Supreme Court has extended to April 8 the deadline of pleadings and other court submissions that are due on March 29 to 31 in areas placed under the strictest quarantine level, particularly Metro Manila and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal. Only pleadings and other court submissions on urgent matters are allowed to be filed during the period of March 29 to 31, the high court said in a circular released on Sundays. Lawyers and litigants must first confirm with the court through its hotline or email address on the urgency of the matter. Acting Chief Justice Estela M. Perlas-Bernabe also approved on Saturday the extension of the physical closure of all courts and court offices in the capital region and the four provinces until April 4.

CONSULAR OFFICES
Meanwhile, consular operations (COs) in Metro Manila, Antipolo, Dasmarinas, San Pablo, and Malolos will be closed from March 29 to 31, according to the Foreign affairs department. Appointments scheduled for March 29-31 will be moved to April 5-8, April 12-16 and April 19-23, the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement over the weekend. “An email will be sent to the concerned applicants to confirm their new appointment schedule,” it said. “Please be advised that the schedules may still be subject to sudden changes due to unforeseen circumstances or changes in the policies of local governments and mall partners which host these COs,” it said. — Bianca Angelica D. Anago and Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

Health professionals group supports 1-week strict lockdown

A GROUP of health professionals supports the one-week strictest form of lockdown imposed in Metro Manila and four nearby provinces but said “sustainable solutions” should be implemented. President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Saturday placed Metro Manila and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal under enhanced community quarantine from March 29 to April 4 due to the surge in coronavirus infections. Pauline F. Convocar, a member of the Health Professional Alliance Against COVID-19 (HPAAC) and president of the Philippine College of Emergency Medicine, said late Saturday that a lockdown is an important but temporary step to stop people’s mobility and the spread of the virus. “Kailangan ito upang maiwasang mapuno ang mga ospital (We must avoid having hospitals at full capacity),” Ms. Convocar said in an online briefing. She said “sustainable solutions” should be implemented along with the lockdown, including an expansion of the One Hospital Command Center to a COVID Referral Network connecting all involved institutions, she said. This network will identify who among the patients can isolate at home or be admitted to hospitals. HPAAC also said that there should be a central data warehouse repository that would allow immediate response for contact tracing, testing, and treatment. The group also said that minimum health protocols should be followed. Sufficient subsidy should also be given to those who will be affected by the lockdown, Ms. Convocar said. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

Labor union pushes for paid 14-day quarantine leave

LABOR unions for healthcare workers on Sunday called on the President to certify as urgent a policy that will provide for a paid 14-day quarantine leave as they face continued risks with the renewed coronovirus surge. Among the groups making the appeal are the Hospital Unions of the Federation of Free Workers (FFW-Trade Federation 8), University of the East Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Medical Center Employees Union-FFW, Makati Medical Center Employees Association, and the De La Salle Health Sciences Institute Employees Union-FFW. The proposed leave benefit is contained in House Bill 7909 or the proposed Act Mandating Paid Pandemic Leaves in the Private Sector in Light of a Declared Global Pandemic. The measure was approved in Dec. 2020 by the House committee on labor and employment. FFW-Trade Federation 8 Chair Manuel Payao said in a statement on Sunday, “We hold that the adoption of a quarantine leave in times like a COVID-19 pandemic is the best thing for workers and businesses, and to keep all of us safe.” United Filipino Service Workers (UFSW) Secretary General Rudy Ladiao, who represents the Chinese General Hospital and Medical Center, said healthcare workers have already signed a Collective Bargaining Agreement with management, which cost employers. “If management will be reimbursed by government through this measure, then it is better for both workers and employers,” he said in the same statement. De La Salle Health Sciences Institute Employees Union-FFW President Vilma Garcia said the unions are also pushing for COVID-19 to be listed as an occupational disease by the Employers Compensation Commission. “If COVID-19 is successfully listed as an occupational disease, workers would not be asking for alms through mere assistance, we will be getting employees compensation for work days missed while battling COVID and trying to get better.” — Gillian M. Cortez

Davao City to set up driving school for bus system

MODERN buses, equipped with a digital payment system, have started serving initial routes in Davao City. — DAVAO CIO

THE DAVAO City government will set up a driving school to ensure a steady source of skilled manpower for its recently launched modern bus system. “These are different types of buses and we need a steady supply of skilled drivers for the multiple shifts,” City Planning and Development Office head Ivan Chin Cortez said during the Davao City business chamber’s members’ meeting last week. The school’s graduates will get a certification indicating their skill level for certain bus types. “When the study (for the High Priority Bus System) was conducted, supply of required skills for bus drivers was lacking… not enough to service the entire bus system,” he said. The HPBS, undertaken with support from the Asian Development Bank, aims to modernize the city’s public transport system which is mainly served by jeepneys. Initial routes have been launched while the city government is still negotiating for property acquisition for the terminals and deports, which will also be used for provincial and regional buses. “At least two options per site (are being considered) so that we have a spare site if option 1 is unwilling (to sell). The idea is once the commuters reach the provincial terminals, they will switch buses of HPBS. We will need a lot of bus stops all throughout the bus network system,” Mr. Cortez said. The city, in partnership with the Department of Transportation, is aiming to complete land purchases this year. The construction of the bus terminals will be funded from a P650-million city government allocation. — Maya M. Padillo