Work-from-home ‘possible’ amid Covid-19 threat

By Azer Parrocha

March 9, 2020, 9:50 pm

MANILA – Malacañang may consider a work-from-home arrangement for some government workers following the local transmission of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) in the country.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said “everything is possible” as long as it would be successful in preventing the spread of the highly-contagious disease.

“Well, everything that will help contain the virus, government will certainly adopt. Everything is possible; everything that will successfully restrain the spread of this virus to the communities,” he said in a Palace briefing on Monday.

Earlier, Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur 2nd district Representative Luis Raymund Villafuerte urged the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) and other company heads to “do their share in helping break the chain of local coronavirus transmission by considering telecommuting, if and when possible, for their workers”.

“Allowing our people to do their jobs in the safety of their homes would go a long way in helping prevent the spread of this virus among our workers,” he said.

Citing reports, he noted that even Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the work-from-home arrangement is “encouraged” to minimize the chances of contracting the disease.

Bello said the work-from-home scheme could be agreed upon by employer and employee.

However, he said this arrangement is only advisable for clerical work or jobs that can be done remotely without having to go to an office.

Villafuerte also urged companies to maximize Republic Act 11165 or the Telecommuting Act, a law that allows employees to work from the comforts of their homes.

“Our companies can consider work-at-home arrangements in support of Republic Act (RA) No. 11164 or the Telecommuting Act, which I had authored,” he said.

President Rodrigo Duterte has signed the Telecommuting Act in January 2019.

Under the Telecommuting Act, employers are required to give online workers the same rights, protection, and compensation as their counterparts who physically go to the office.

No need to pressure

Following the new confirmed Covid-19 cases in the country, Panelo said he saw no need for the Palace to pressure Congress into passing the proposed PHP2-billion supplemental budget to prevent the spread of the deadly disease.

“I think members of Congress need not be urged or pressured into doing that. They know the emergency and they know what to do. Everything is possible with Congress,” he said.

Earlier, Senator Sonny Angara, chair of the Senate finance committee, assured that Congress is ready to augment funds in the government’s response to contain the spread of Covid-19.

Aside from the supplemental budget, Panelo said funds collected from POGOs could be used by the government to address the Covid-19 outbreak and raise the monthly salary of nurses and teachers

On Monday, the Department of Health (DOH) confirmed 10 new cases of Covid-19, bringing to 20 the total number of confirmed cases in the Philippines.

Panelo announced on Monday that Duterte signed Proclamation No. 922 declaring a state of public health emergency throughout the Philippines following the report of the first known local transmission of the deadly disease.

The proclamation provides that all government agencies and local government units (LGUs) are enjoined to render full assistance and cooperation and mobilize the necessary resources to curtail and eliminate the Covid-19 threat. (PNA)