DTI encouraging workers to return to offices again under Alert Level 1

DTI encouraging workers to return to offices again under Alert Level 1
This August 19, 2020 photo shows the "mega contact-tracing center" in Valenzuela City.
The STAR / Boy Santos, file

MANILA, Philippines — With Metro Manila back under Alert Level 1, the national government's move towards the new normal continued as it encouraged workers to begin working on-site in their workplaces once more to stimulate spending and economic activity. 

Speaking at President Rodrigo Duterte's Talk to the People late Monday night, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said the move would allow micro, small, and medium enterprises in and around workplaces to recover financially.

MSMEs are the lifeblood of the Philippine economy, making up 62.66% of the country’s total employment. The vast majority of them are in the National Capital Region, according to the Department of Trade and Industry. 

"We will encourage more on-site presence...before we were encouraging work from home but now we have physical presence. This means that more people will go inside their offices, which will stimulate spending because there are more opportunities to spend going to work and going home," he said in mixed Filipino and English.

"Businesses around the area will be supported. Many SMEs will be assisted by this, those who do their businesses near offices. There were few workers going to work in offices before," he added. 

Is working from home still permitted? "It is still allowed, but it's optional. It's not encouraged now that we're moving to Alert Level 1 and we want to stimulate more economic activities...Before we'd have to choose which is essential and non-essential, but now, everything is open."

Isolation areas in workplaces will also no longer be required, while physical barriers and paper-based contact tracing will also be removed, Lopez said. He added that the department was also looking at a "strong rebound for tourism" by removing quarantine requirements for international travel along with domestic travel requirements. 

Under Alert Level 1, "all establishments, persons, or activities, are allowed to operate, work, or be undertaken at full on-site or venue capacity provided it is consistent with Minimum Public Health Standards."

But Lopez said that physical distancing would no longer be required in establishments, including restaurants and personal care outlets, to allow them to fully resume 100% capacity.

"If we allow 100%, we need to remove first physical distancing because now people can sit next to each other," he said. 

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade also said that public transportation would also be on 100% capacity once more.

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