The House of Representatives approved on final reading the bill seeking to require Filipinos to follow several health and safety measures even when the coronavirus pandemic is over.
On Monday, August 10, a total of 242 lawmakers voted yes to House Bill 6864 or the proposed “Better Normal for the Workplace, Communities and Public Spaces Act of 2020.” No one voted no nor abstained.
Dubbed as the “better normal” bill, HB 6864 seeks to make it mandatory for Filipinos to wear face masks and practice physical distancing in public places across the country. Regular temperature checks would be conducted as well.
Mayors and governors of local government units (LGUs) considered as “critical” zones for COVID-19 would be required to put up testing centers and purchase test kits, protective gear, and other equipment needed to conduct mass testing.
The bill also sets a minimum rate of testing at 1% of the entire population of the province or city.
Public transportation would be reopened, but motorcycle taxis would still be temporarily prohibited from operating. Physical distancing would be required inside vehicles as well as in queueing and ticketing areas. Contactless payments would be promoted. (READ: On their own: Commuters and the looming transportation crisis in Metro Manila)
Companies would be required to observe physical distancing protocols too, with the bill “discouraging” them from holding physical meetings and instead asking them to resort to digital means of communication. (READ: How to navigate the ‘new normal’ for online businesses)
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 and LGUs 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. (READ: No student left behind? During pandemic, education ‘only for those who can afford’)
All public and private schools would be ordered to come up with flexible learning programs to meet students’ needs and assist the faculty in a distance learning system.
President Rodrigo Duterte, however, already signed a law empowering him to reopen schools later than August during a state of emergency like the COVID-19 pandemic, where nearly 130,000 people have already been infected in the country.
What will be the punishment for violators?
HB 6864 lists down the following prohibited acts:
- Failure to wear mask while in public or in the workplace
- Failure to comply with the provisions on the management of spaces
- Failure to implement provisions on the management of public transportation
- Failure to follow directives of DepEd and CHED on the holding of classes
- Failure to implement the workplace-specific protocols and measures
- Failure of a business to submit a management plan
- Failure of the employer or any person in charge to follow the case management protocols.
If the new normal bill becomes law, anyone caught violating it 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 that 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 2 to 6 months or be required to pay a fine of between P5,000 and P100,000, or both. – Rappler.com
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