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Nationwide round-up (04/18/21)

Senator wants law that will give each Filipino a financial account

A SENATOR plans to file a bill that will give every Filipino a bank account or an online payment access that can be used for a more efficient distribution of cash aid from the government. Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian said the government should provide the account, which can be tied up with the national ID system. “I call this the ‘One Filipino, One Bank Account.’ It should be mandatory for the government to give all Philippine residents a bank account. It is important that we start tapping technology,” Mr. Gatchalian said in Filipino. The senator, who chairs the committee on banks, financial institutions, and currencies, also noted that contactless and cashless payments is another option with over 74 million Filipinos owning smartphones as of 2019. He said owning a bank account should be considered as a “basic requirement among Filipinos, regardless of the individual’s socio-economic class.” He noted the problems that have surfaced in the distribution of financial subsidy for those most affected by the coronavirus pandemic, with both beneficiaries and government agents put at risk. “In situations such as now where there is a pandemic, government can simply remit (the cash aid) to the bank account,” he said. Mr. Gatchalian also noted that records from the Philippine Statistics Authority show that 82% of the 10.5 million initial registrants for the national ID system stated that they do not have bank accounts. He also cited a financial inclusion survey conducted by the Philippine central bank in 2019 indicating that 51.2 million adult Filipinos do not have a bank account due to lack of enough money to open one as primary reason, followed by perceived lack of need for an account, and lack of documentary requirements. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

Judges to get P5,000 monthly communications allowance for videoconference hearings

JUDGES and clerks of court nationwide will get a P5,000 monthly communication allowance starting May to pay for stable internet services that will ensure the smooth conduct of online hearings. Supreme Court Chief Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo, in a resolution released on April 16, granted the allowance that will not be subject to liquidation rules. “Judges and the Clerks of Court of the Office of the Clerk of Court shall ensure that the internet service procured has sufficient bandwidth to enable them to conduct videoconferencing hearings and electronically receive and transmit court documents,” the resolution states. The resolution is in line with the implementation of the Guidelines on the Conduct of Videoconferencing authorized by former Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta “in order to avoid any further delay of court action on pending cases before them” amid restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic. First level courts refer to Municipal and Metropolitan Trial Courts  while second level trial courts are Regional Trial Courts. The Supreme Court reported last week that it recorded an 87.75% success rate in hearings held by courts nationwide via videoconference from May 5, 2020 to April 9, 2021. — Bianca Angelica D. Añago

Filipino workers in South Korea given 1-year permit extension

FILIPINO workers in South Korea with work permits expiring within this year have been granted a one-year automatic extension by the Labor department in line with the Republic of Korea’s (ROK) recent policy allowing the continuation of foreign workers’ stay in the region in consideration of the coronavirus pandemic. The Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) said on Sunday that overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) under the Employment Permit System (EPS) are qualified for the extension. “The issuance provides that the stay and employment period of foreign workers (E-9 and H-2) under the EPS and whose employment period (3 years or 4 years and 10 months) expires from 13 April 2021 to 31 December 2021, is extended for one (1) year,” DoLE said in a statement. The extension will also apply to EPS workers who were given a 50-day visa extension by the government as long as the 50-day period falls within the year starting April 13. Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III welcomed the South Korean government’s issuance, saying, “The preservation of jobs of our OFWs everywhere in the world is our primordial concern, and this development highlights the value of our 15 years of continuing bilateral cooperation on labor with the ROK.”— Gillian M. Cortez

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