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Nationwide round-up (04/12/21)

Less contact tracers to be hired for longer service period

THE DEPARTMENT of Labor and Employment will hire 5,000 contact tracers instead of the initial plan of 12,000 to allow them to work for a longer period as requested by local governments where they will be deployed. During a virtual briefing on Monday, the department’s Information and Publication Service Director Rolly M. Francia said the decision to cut the target beneficiaries under a temporary employment program known as TUPAD was based on talks with the leaders of local government units (LGUs) in Metro Manila. “This will be around 5,000 only. The reason is not because we do not have the funds. We still have funds. What Secretary (Silvestre) Bello wants to clear up is that the decrease in hiring contract tracers we will be funding… is because of the want of the LGUs to prolong the number of days the contact tracers will work,” Mr. Francia said in Filipino. The Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (TUPAD) program provides emergency employment for a period of 10 days. For the contact tracers, they will be hired under a 30-day contract.  Around P205 million will be allocated with each contact tracer to be paid P537 per day, the prevailing Metro Manila minimum wage. Meanwhile, Marikina Rep. Stella Luz A. Quimbo said a faster COVID-19 vaccine rollout and localized lockdowns should be prioritized as restrictions are eased in Metro Manila and nearby provinces despite the continued high rate of daily new cases as well as deaths. “The IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force) is lifting the ECQ (enhanced community quarantine) at a time when the number of deaths is at a peak, with 401 deaths reported just last April 9. While I do not disagree with moving to a less stringent quarantine level for NCR+, we must keep in mind that we must do this with a more responsive plan in place,” she said in a statement on Monday. The vaccination program must be swiftly carried out, she said, while targeted lockdowns must be implemented instead of a wide-area quarantine. “Our resources are limited, so let’s be strategic about using them. I propose that instead of a widespread community quarantine, that the IATF shifts instead to a more targeted approach of household lockdowns. Only affected households will be required to adhere to a strict stay-at-home policy, and given the corresponding assurance that necessary ayuda (assistance) is guaranteed and healthcare will be provided, whether at home or in the hospitals as needed,” Ms. Quimbo said. — Gillian M. Cortez

Former OFWs warned vs illegal recruitment scheme

THE BUREAU of Immigration on Monday warned against an illegal recruitment scheme targeting former overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) whose visas and contracts have expired by assuring them that they can leave the country and work overseas again using their old overseas employment certificate records (OECs). “This is an obvious circumvention of the law, and victims are promised that they can depart using their old OECs that are, in fact, invalid already,” Immigration Commissioner Jaime H. Morente said in a press release. “Victims end up working for a different employer, or worse, fly off to a third country like Iraq or Syria,” he added. The scheme was discovered when members of the bureau’s Travel Control and Enforcement Unit at the Clark International Airport stopped the departure of a victim bound for Dubai last April 5 due to inconsistencies in the documents presented. — Bianca Angelica D. Añago

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