Life After Lockdown: Efforts to reduce contact hinder full resumption of government services

Life After Lockdown: Efforts to reduce contact hinder full resumption of government services

Philstar.com's Life After Lockdown is a compendium of references on Filipinos' shift to a new normalcy during a coronavirus pandemic.

MANILA, Philippines — With quarantine measures seen to be in place for at least until the middle of 2020, government agencies have been scrambling to adapt and make sure that they can provide services or have extended the validity of documents that expire during the quarantine.

In a May 29 press release, the Civil Service Commission called on agencies to prepare for the reopening of government offices in areas transitioning to general community quarantine.

To ensure that government workers will be safe from COVID-19, the CSC also "urges heads of agencies to implement precautionary measures prior to resumption of normal operations, such as disinfection and decontamination activities, conduct of health status check among employees, and modification of workplace layout to ensure observance of physical distancing requirements."

All government agencies must follow health protocols like wearing face masks, checking body temperature and putting up sanitation stations to protect government workers and citizens from the virus.

"Moreover, support mechanisms, such as health/psychosocial interventions, provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) to employees, and reasonable transportation facilities and housing quarters, should be made available to government workers," it also said.

Agencies are allowed to adopt alternative working arrangements like the following:

  • Work from home
  • Skeleton workforce
  • Compressed work weeks
  • Staggered work hours

"An agency may also adopt work arrangements consisting of a combination of these, or other work arrangements appropriate and applicable to the agency considering the prevailing community quarantine in the area where it is located and the nature of work performed by its employees," it said.

Birth certificates and other Philippine Statistics Authority documents: Civil Registration System offices areas under the general community quarantine are allowed to operate.

  • CRS Outlets "shall also begin to accept applications for PSA-issued documents thru Batch Requests System (BREQS) filed at Local Government Units (LGUs) and SM Business Centers," the PSA says on its websites.
  • For transactions, it recommends using the PSA Serbilis service. Birth, death, and marriage certificates as well as Certificates of No Marriage are available through the service, which accepts online payments and through banks and payment centers. Certificates are delivered by courier.

Government Service Insurance System: GSIS offices in areas under ECQ, including its head office in Pasay, are closed until May 17.

  • Since the Enhanced Community Quarantine in Luzon was announced in March, GSIS has been encouraging members to access services through the internet. The GSIS Wireless Automated Processing System (GWAPS) kiosks may also be used in areas where these are available.
  • Old-age and survivorship pensioners who were not able to go to a GSIS office or branch for the Annual Pensioners Information Revalidation (APIR) because of the quarantine may now do so online.
  • "To comply with the online APIR, pensioners must send via email a letter requesting GSIS to activate their status and send it to an email address designated by GSIS for particular areas," GSIS says in an advisory.
  • "The letter must indicate the date of request and contain their details, namely, complete name; complete address; contact number (mobile or landline); and signature," it also says.
  • Required attachments in the email are: A photo of their UMID or eCard Plus or temporary; if unavailable, a photo of two valid IDs; a chest-level photo of the pensioner "holding a current newspaper whose headline and date of publication are prominently displayed" or with a TV showing a news crawler or ticker "showing the current news headline and date"; Survivorship pensioners are likewise required to submit the prescribed form for self-declaration of surviving spouse (on non-marriage/cohabitation).
  • Emails may be sent to the following addresses: National Capital Region, Rizal and Cavite ([email protected]) | North Luzon ([email protected]) | South Luzon ([email protected]) | Visayas ([email protected]) | Mindanao ([email protected])


Home loans and the Pag-IBIG Fund: While some Pag-IBIG Fund offices are closed because of the quarantine, many of its services, like loan applications are available on their website.

  • Loan payments due within the ECQ period have been given a 30-day grace period under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.
  • Pag-IBIG Fund members may also apply for a three-month moratorium separate from the Bayanihan Act grace period "to help defray their expenses during the enhanced community quarantine being implemented by the government in its fight to contain the COVID-19 virus."

Who can apply for the three-month Pag-IBIG moratorium? As of March, the moratorium was only available to members in Luzon and the National Capital Region although the Pag-IBIG fund could expand it. Borrowers in those areas with Pag-IBIG Fund Housing Loan, Multi-Purpose Loan, and Calamity Loan payments due between March 16 and June 15 may apply. Deadline for applications, through this online form, is June 15.

Land Transportation Office: The Land Transportation Office will extend the validity of driver's licenses, permits, and vehicle registrations that expired after March 16. Those documents will remain valid for 60 days after work resumption. 

  • Temporary Operator’s Permits or TOPs that have expired since March 16 can no longer be used as a temporary license. 

Law enforcement clearances: The National Bureau of Investigation is still waiting for orders from the Department of Justice and the Inter-Agency Task Force on whether it will resume processing requests for NBI clearances.

  • If the NBI resumes issuing clearances, it will still “suspend walk-in applicants” and instead encourage online registration and payment to lessen the number of people, and time spent, in NBI clearance centers, the bureau’s spokesperson, Ferdinand Lavin told Philstar.com.
  • The issuance of police clearances is suspended even in places under General Community Quarantine “until further notice or when it is safe for public,” Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac, PNP spokesperson, said in a message.

Passports and other related documents: The Department of Foreign Affairs' Office of Consular Affairs resumed operations in areas under General Community Quarantine on May 4, according to its website, "with the rest following suit after the end of the Enhanced Community Quarantine."

  • According to a May 17 advisory from the Department of Foreign Affairs, the following consular offices remain closed and can only provide emergency services: NCR Northeast, Cebu, San Pablo, Passport Service Program Paniqui
  • Consular Office NCR Central is open Mondays to Fridays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. but only for passport releasing.
  • The following consular offices are open Mondays to Fridays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.: NCR South, Clarin/Ozamiz, Dumaguete, La Union, Malolos, San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte, Tacloban, Tuguegarao, Zamboanga City.
  • The following consular offices are open on weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.: NCR West, NCR East, NCR North, Angeles, Bacolod, Butuan, Cagayan de Oro, Calasiao, Dasmariñas, General Santos, Iloilo, Legazpi, Lipa, Pampanga, Puerto Princesa, Santiago, Tagum (limited capacity only).
  • The consular offices in Baguio and Davao are open Mondays to Fridays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • OCA Aseana is scheduled to open on June 1.
  • Appointments must be made by email through the addresses in this DFA directory.
  • Those with OCA appointments affected by the quarantine and who are in GCQ areas will be sent an email with their new appointment schedules. Those in ECQ areas will get emails on their new appointments beginning May 18.
  • Physical distancing will be enforced at COs and options that reduce physical contact—like online payments and delivery of passports by courier—is preferred when available.
  • The number of people allowed inside the consular offices will be limited and companions are discouraged except for applicants who need assistance.
  • "When presenting documents to the attending officer, applicants must lay down all documents on the counter and avoid handing documents directly to the officer.
  • Applicants must leave the premises/office immediately once they have completed their transactions," DFA-OCA also says.

PhilHealth: Services for the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. are accessible through their online portal. They may also be reached through their call center at 8441-7442 or their textline at 0917-898-7442.`

Social Security System: The payment deadline for SSS contributions for January, February and March (for self-employed, voluntary, and non-working spouse members) and for February to April (regular and household employers) has been moved to June 1.

  • Individual paying members may pay through the Bayad Center mobile app, through the My.SSS page, and though the SSS Mobile App.
  • The Social Security System has been operating with a skeleton workforce since the ECQ was announced in March, although transactions have been limited to the following: applications for non-medical benefits such as retirement, death, funeral, and unemployment, sickness and maternity notifications, employer reimbursement claims for sickness and maternity, maternity claims for self-employed and voluntary members, Pension Loan Program applications, contribution and loan payments.
  • Unified Multi-Purpose Identification card applications and other transactions are suspended.
  • For other inquires, services, and to check their records, SSS members may access the SSS website, use the SSS Mobile App, or use the Text-SSS facility at 2600.

Travel clearances for minors, OFWs: Travel is restricted in many parts of the world although and Filipinos are only allowed essential travel. Foreign nationals can leave at any time.

  • The Department of Social Welfare and Development offices in the National Capital Region, Central Visayas, and the Davao Region are pilot testing online applications for Travel Clearance for Minors Travelling Abroad. The steps include going to the nearest DSWD Field Office for an actual interview. At any rate, minors are supposed to stay at home even during the General Community Quarantine.

New applications for OFW deployment suspended: Philippine Overseas Employment Authority offices are on skeletal workforces in areas under ECQ although personnel have been told to make the use of telephones and online means to provide services.

  • In the meantime, new applications for principal accreditation for Landbased and Seabased employment are suspended.
  • Manual contract processing with the Landbased Center and the Seabased Contract Processing and Accreditation Branch are also suspended. Online processing of contracts is available.

What about Overseas Employment Certificates for returning OFWs? This can be done through the Balik Manggagawa Online system. The POEA has also clarified that PhilHealth premiums, payment of which is not voluntary by order of President Rodrigo Duterte, are not required for the release of the OECs. — Jonathan de Santos and Kristine Patag







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