MANILA, Philippines – The Senate has approved on third and final reading a measure to allow companies to offer a telecommuting program to its employees in efforts to ease traffic congestion in Metro Manila and other urban cities.
With 22 affirmative votes, zero negative vote and zero abstention, Senate Bill No. 1363 or the Telecommuting Act of 2017 was passed on Monday, May 22. Senators Joel Villanueva and Cynthia Villar are authors of the measure.
Telecommuting is defined by the bill as the partial or total substitution of computers or telecommunication technologies or both for the commute to work by employees.
Villanueva, chair of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development and sponsor of SBN 1363, said the measure is also meant to ensure that home-based workers would have equal pay, leave benefits, and promotion as their counterparts in the office.
It also seeks to lessen the feelings of isolation of home-based workers from their office mates.
The neophyte senator pointed out that while telecommuting had started in the 1980s, especially in the fields of communication and architecture, only a few companies in the Philippines had adopted telecommuting.
He said his committee had looked into the “best practices” in telecommuting to ensure that more employers would adopt the program in their workplace.
Moreover, the proposed law would not be mandatory and instead give the employers the discretion on whether to offer telecommuting to their workers or not.
He, however, clarified that the bill would guarantee that any telecommuting program should not be less than the minimum labor standards set by law. He said that under the bill, employers would ensure that its home-based workers be given the same treatment as their peers in the office.
Meanwhile, the Senate also passed on third and final reading a bill meant to bring 92 new areas, including six internationally-recognized natural sites, under the protection and management of the country’s landmark National Integrated and Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act.
Also with 22 affirmative votes, zero negative vote, and zero abstention, Senate Bill No. 1444, or the Expanded NIPAS Act of 2017 was passed. The measure was authored by senators Cynthia Villar, Loren Legarda, Francis Escudero, Nancy Binay, Juan Miguel Zubiri, and Joel Villanueva,
According to Villar, sponsor of SBN 1444 and chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, the bill seeks to amend Republic Act 7586 or the NIPAS Act of 1992, in order “to include more areas and to ensure greater protection for all protected areas.”
She pointed out that the NIPAS Act, first enacted in 1992, provides the legal framework for the establishment and management of protected areas in the country.
The senator noted that among the 92 new protected areas, six sites were internationally recognized and classified as ASEAN Heritage Sites: Mount Timpoong-Hibok-Hibok and Mount Iglit-Baco; Malaysia-Philippines Heritage Parks, Turtles Islands Heritage Protected Area; and Ramsar Sites Agusan Marsh, Olango Island and the Las Pinas Paranaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (LPPCHEA).
Provisions of the bill include the creation of ‘Protected Area Management Office’ for each of the protected areas, and the rationalization of the existing Protected Areas Management Board (PAMB), which will now include local government officials, indigenous peoples, non-government organizations, academic institutions and women.
The bill also seeks to uphold the recognition of Indigenous Community Conserved Areas. It would also allow the development of renewable energy resources of protected areas, as long as these are “subject to adoption of reduced impact technologies, Environmental Impact Assessment and such development is not detrimental to ecosystem functions and biodiversity.”
She said that the bill was meant to address the worsening cases of habitat loss, destruction and deterioration of many protected areas in the country.
The Philippines has been known as one of the 35 world’s biodiversity hotspots or “regions containing exceptional concentrations of plant endemism, but experiencing high rates of habitat loss”, Villar said.