MANILA – The chairman of the House transportation committee on Thursday called on the government to mandate the public to wear face masks or similar protective articles around the nose and mouth when taking public transport amid the growing threat of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
Samar Rep. Edgar Sarmiento urged the commuting public to take all the necessary precaution to protect not only themselves from the dreaded virus, but also their fellow passengers by wearing face masks, or if not available, anything that can be used to cover the nose and the mouth, while inside all forms public transportation including jeepneys, buses, trains, airplanes, and water vessels.
Sarmiento said the government should continue to ensure that public transportation remains available to serve the people, noting that public transport operators must regularly disinfect their vehicles and coaches to somehow reduce the chance of transmission.
” We should not stop transporting our people because doing so will only hurt the economy even further. Masyado na tayong bugbog dahil sa Covid, baka hindi na tayo makatayo kung pati ang public transport ay patigilin natin (We are already battered by this Covid-19, and we might not be able to stand up if we halt the operations of public transport),” Sarmiento said.
“The threat of the Covid-19 virus is very real and should not be underestimated. Taking all the precautions will not just protect us from this dreaded disease but it will also protect others. If we don’t have face masks, we can use handkerchiefs and any clothing article that can adequately cover our nose and mouth,” Sarmiento added.
Meanwhile, House trade and industry chair Wes Gatchalian recommended to the Department of Trade and Industry, through a resolution, to monitor the implementation of the provisions of the Price Act amid claims of alleged hoarding of goods in light of the spread of Covid-19.
“I have received reports that some basic goods in major supermarkets, like alcohol, masks, instant noodles, and canned goods are out of stock for a period of time now. This, despite reports from manufacturers that the supply of goods is enough to meet the increased demand caused by the public health crisis faced by the country, raising concerns of hoarding,” Gatchalian said.
He said hoarding is illegal and punishable by a fine of ranging from PHP5,000 to PHP2 million, and imprisonment for a period of five to 15 years.
“To this end, I urge all retailers to immediately restock and resupply their inventory to put to rest any concerns of hoarding. As for our consumers, I urge them to remain calm and avoid panic buying of supplies. There is more than enough for everybody,” Gatchalian said.
“In this time of crisis, I hope everyone is mindful of other people who only have enough money for their daily sustenance. Let us not purchase more than what we need in order to afford others who have the same need as you and I. Our collective effort is needed if we are to survive this crisis as one nation,” he added.
PBA Party-list Rep. Jericho Nograles, meanwhile, said this is the best time to test the efficacy of Republic Act 11165, otherwise known as the “Telecommuting Act”, as he urged public offices and private corporations to consider telecommuting to ensure that the country will survive the onslaught of the Covid-19 virus on the global economy.
Telecommuting refers to work from an alternative workplace with the use of telecommunications and/or computer technologies.
“We all need to work together to stop the spread of the virus and keep the economy afloat. Think of it na lang na ang savings sa commute pwede ng gamitin sa load (Just think of it as a way to use the savings from commuting for [mobile] load). Now more than ever the telco should not fail the country,” said Nograles.
“This is the best time to test this law. Now that many people are so scared to get out of their homes, our economy is the next victim of this Covid-19 scare. We can fight this by putting the telecommuting law into action,” he added.
Under RA 11165, an employer in the private sector may offer a telecommuting program to its employees on voluntary bases, and upon such terms and conditions as they may mutually agree upon.
The law also provides that “such terms and conditions shall not be less than the minimum labor standards set by law, and shall include compensable work hours, a minimum number of work hours, overtime, rest days, and entitlement to leave benefits.” (PNA)