The spread of COVID-19 in the country has been rapid, with 3,764 confirmed cases and 177 deaths as of Apr. 7. As the industry continues to face the dire consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, how is Republic Act No. 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act helping businesses and the people behind it during this time of crisis?

When was it signed? President Rodrigo Duterte signed the act on Mar. 25, retroactively applying from Feb. 1, 2020.

What will the act do? The president is granted additional powers to immediately address the COVID-19 situation in the Philippines. This authorizes him to realign funds for necessary government measures and to direct the operations of establishments to support healthcare services. The act also places the whole country under a state of emergency effective for three months unless extended.

What does a state of calamity mean? It is “a condition involving mass casualty and/or major damages to the environment, property, infrastructures, disruption of means of livelihoods and businesses, and normal way of life of people in the affected areas as a result of the occurrence of a natural or human-induced hazard.”

What does an enhanced community quarantine mean? Areas under the ECQ will put all households under strict home quarantine, a suspension of public transportation, a government-regulated provision of food and essential health services, and a heightened presence of uniformed personnel to enforce quarantine procedures.

What businesses are allowed to operate during the ECQ? Businesses that provide basic necessities and cater to the production of food and medicine (such as public markets, banks and water companies), business processing outsourcing, export-oriented industries, media companies, transportation (for official business only), hotels or similar establishments, and those that have employed a telecommute scheme.

How will force majeure affect businesses? Also known as “fortuitous events” or “acts of God,” these unforeseen (and if in any case foreseen, inevitable) circumstances excuse a person to perform certain obligations under a contract. However, this can be invoked if the law or provision of the contract states liability, the nature of obligations assumes risks, or a party is guilty for the delay of obligation. Negotiation from both sides is still required.  

What will it require from the private sector? 

  • Financial institutions: Implement a minimum of 30-day grace period for the payment of all loans without inflicting interests, penalties or other charges.
  • Lessors: Provide a 30-day moratorium on residential and commercial rents (recently approved by the Inter Agency Task Force) falling under the period of the enhanced community quarantine, incurring no interests, penalties or other charges.
  • Businesses (in general): Prioritize and accept contracts of materials and supply that will promote the declared national policy.
  • Employers (in general): Authorize alternative working arrangements for workers (when necessary).

What are flexible working arrangements? These alternatives shall compensate for the loss of income of employees, as advised by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). Examples of these are work-from-home schemes, reduction of regular work hours, rotational workers and implementation of forced leaves. This isn’t mandatory or demandable on the part of the employees although it is highly recommended by DOLE.

Who are considered as affected workers? Workers in private establishments whose employment is temporarily suspended or whose regular working hours are cut short, thus resulting in salary reduction.

What are the benefits for employees? 

Tulong panghanap-buhay sa ating displaced/disadvantaged workers (TUPAD):  Emergency employment for displaced, underemployed, and seasonal workers within a period of 10 to 30 days.

COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP): A one-time financial assistance worth P5,000 to affected formal sector workers, regardless of position

Will submission and filing of documents as well as payment of taxes and other fees required by the law be moved? Statutory deadlines and timelines are moved to “ease the burden on individuals under the community quarantine.” The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) extended the deadline for the filing and payment of annual income tax returns for 2019 by a 30-day period. Extensions also apply to VAT refund applications and tax amnesty. These rules are still subject to further extension as subjected by circumstances or as directed by the government.

Will there be business incentives? Incentives may be awarded to manufacturing and importing businesses whose services are critical to the production of health equipment and supplies, provided that such will be exempted from import duties, taxes and other fees.

What will be the penalty should an individual or group fail to comply? Two (2) months imprisonment, and a fine of not less than P10,000 but not more than P1 million.

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