House OKs on 2nd reading bill on post-pandemic ‘better normal’

The bill seeking to make several health and and safety measures mandatory in post-pandemic Philippines is one step closer from passage in the House of Representatives. 

On Thursday, June 4, lawmakers approved on 2nd reading House Bill (HB) No. 6864 or the proposed Better Normal for the Workplace, Communities and Public Spaces Act of 2020 through viva voce voting or a vote of ayes and nays. 

HB 6864 is the substituted measure for HB 6623, the initial version filed by Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and 7 other ranking congressmen. 

The House, however, is pressed for time to pass the measure on final reading, as the 18th Congress is scheduled to adjourn session sine die by Friday, June 5. The 1987 Constitution states lawmakers should be given a copy of a bill 3 days before its passage.  

If passed into law, the better normal bill would require Filipinos to wear face masks and practice physical distancing in public places nationwide. Temperature checks would also be a requirement.  (READ: [OPINION] New normal? Better normal!)

Public transportation would be reopened, but motorcycle taxis would still be prohibited from operating. Physical distancing would be required inside vehicles as well as in queueing and ticketing areas. (READ: On their own: Commuters and the looming transportation crisis in Metro Manila)

The same goes for workplaces, with companies to be discouraged from holding physical meetings and would instead be asked to resort to online methods of communication.

The food and beverage industry would still be allowed to continue their takeout and delivery services. Dine-in services would be "gradually" reintroduced, but there should be a two-meter distance between tables. 

The national government as well as local government units would be ordered to keep a database of all private businesses, which would be required to submit a Management Plan to determine their compliance with health safeguards stipulated under the bill.

The government would also be required to shift to digital platforms to allow Filipinos to access services and programs electronically. 

The Department of Education (DepEd) and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) would be authorized to determine the start of school year 2020 to 2021. All public and private schools would also be ordered to come up with flexible learning programs to meet students’ needs and assist the faculty.

Punishable acts

HB 6864 would penalize anyone committing the following prohibited acts:

Anyone caught violating the new normal bill stands to face imprisonment between a month to two months or pay a fine ranging from P1,000 up to P50,000, or both, depending on specific rules violated.

Establishments who would not follow the policies may also face suspension of their license to operate.

The bill, however, sets a stricter punishment for government officials and employees who would be violating the bill. They may be sent to jail for two to 6 months or be required to pay a fine between P5,000 up to P100,000, or both. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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