Philippines


Authors: Disini Law; JJ Disini, Arnico delos Trinos, Michael Edgardo Cruz, Tiffany Chan, Ma. Elaine Marcilla, Michelle Anne Esquivias

E-Mail: info@disini.ph

Website: disini.ph

Overview of legal measures as of 10 June 2020. Please note: Due to the extraordinary situation, the legislation is in continuous evolution and may change very fast.

Introduction

On 08 March 2020, the President issued Presidential Proclamation No. 922, declaring a State of Public Health Emergency throughout the Philippines due to COVID-19. On 16 March 2020, the President issued Presidential Proclamation No.929, declaring a State of Calamity for a period of six (6) months and placing Luzon under Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ).

On 24 March 2020, to marshal the State’s resources in its fight against the pandemic, the Philippine Congress enacted Republic Act No. 11469, otherwise known as the "Bayanihan to Heal As One Act" (Bayanihan Act). The salient features thereof are as follows:

  • Declaration of a national emergency by Congress due to the spread of COVID-19;

  • Exercise of Congress’ emergency powers and delegation of the same to the President;

  • Authorizing the President to adopt and implement measures to contain the further transmission and spread of COVID-19 through effective education, detection, protection, and treatment;

  • Direct the discontinuance of appropriated programs, projects, or activities of any agency of the Executive Department, including government-owned or –controlled corporations (GOCC) in the fiscal years 2019 and 2020 General Appropriations Act (GAA), whether released or unreleased, the allotments for which remain unobligated, and utilize the savings therefrom to augment the funds of government programs addressing the spread of the pandemic;

  • Reprogram, reallocate, realign from savings on other items of appropriations in the fiscal year 2020 GAA in the Executive Department to fund government measures addressing the spread of the pandemic and its economic impact;

  • Provision for emergency subsidy to vulnerable sectors, rationalized compensation package for health workers, as well as financial and loan packages to affected businesses;

  • Expeditious procurement of medical, surgical, personal protective equipment and supplies, testing kits for public health facilities/private hospitals and laboratories;

  • Extension of deadlines for filing of documents and payment of taxes, fees, and other charges required by law; and

  • Implementation of a grace period on the payment of loans as well as residential and commercial rents falling due within the period of community quarantine without incurring interests;

In view of the above, the Office of the President mobilized the various government agencies to formulate, recommend, and adopt policies consistent with and to effectively execute the mandate of the Bayanihan Act.

As of 09 June 2020, there is a total of Twenty Two Thousand Nine Hundred Ninety Two (22,992) confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Philippines.

Below are some of the key measures implemented by the government in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

1. Regulation of Movement of Individuals/Goods and Operation of Establishments

Role of the Inter-Agency Task Force

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) was created by virtue of Presidential Executive Order No. 168, series of 2014, to establish preparedness and ensure efficient government response to assess, monitor, contain, control, and prevent the spread of any potential epidemic in the Philippines.

The Task Force is composed of representatives from the following government agencies:

  • Department of Health (DOH)

  • Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA)

  • Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG)

  • Department of Justice (DOJ)

  • Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE)

  • Department of Tourism (DOT)

  • Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC)

Below are the IATF’s notable resolutions and guidelines which were duly adopted and implemented by the government and the private sector:

1.1 Imposition of Community Quarantine

Since March 2020, different areas of the country have been placed under varying levels of community quarantine to reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 transmission.

The government has formulated and adopted four (4) levels of community quarantine; ranked from most stringent to less stringent imposition of restrictions, especially on the movement of persons and operations of establishments, to wit:

  • Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ);

  • Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ);

  • General Community Quarantine (GCQ); and

  • Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ).

The implementation of a particular community quarantine upon specific areas of the country depends on the following factors:

  • epidemic risk level;

  • economic, social, and security considerations; and

  • appeals and commitment of Local Government Units (LGUs)

As of 01 June 2020, the following areas have been placed under GCQ until 15 June 2020, to wit:

a. For Luzon:

  • Pangasinan;

  • Region II – Batanes, Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Santiago City;

  • Region III – Aurora, Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Tarlac, Zambales, Angeles City, Olongapo City;

  • Region IV-A - Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon, Lucena City; and

  • All Highly Urbanized Cities (HUCs) of the National Capital Region (NCR) and municipality of Pateros

b. For Visayas:

  • Region VII – Bohol, Cebu, Negros Oriental, Siquijor, Cebu City, Mandaue City, Lapu-Lapu City

c. For Mindanao:

  • Zamboanga City; and

  • Davao City

Other parts of the country are currently placed under MGCQ.

Provinces, HUCs, and Independent Component Cities (ICCs) shall observe:

  • Enforcement of minimum public health standards; and

  • Strict localized community quarantine in priority areas.

Local chief executives may impose localized quarantine in select areas or establishments with concurrence of the Regional-IATF.

For the complete list of the risk-level classification of areas, please see IATF Resolution No. 41.

1.2 Minimum Public Health Standards and Movement of Persons and Goods

On 06 June 2020, the IATF Omnibus Guidelines was re-published with the latest amendments for the implementation of GCQ and MGCQ.

  1. All areas under community quarantine shall comply with the DOH-prescribed minimum public health standards, such as, but not limited to the following:

      1. Observance of social distancing;

      2. Use of face masks when going to public places, workplaces, and other establishments;

      3. Practice of respiratory etiquette; and

      4. Frequent sanitation and hand washing.

  2. Movement of all persons under GCQ and MGCQ shall be limited to accessing essential goods and services, and for work in offices or industries allowed to operate therein.

    • Under GCQ, the following individuals are required to remain in their residences at all times, except when necessary under the circumstances to obtain essential goods and services or for work purposes:

        1. Any person below twenty-one (21) years old;

        2. Sixty (60) years old and above;

        3. those with immunodeficiency, comorbidities, or other health risks;

        4. pregnant women; and

        5. those who live with the aforementioned individuals.

          • Movement for leisure purposes is still not allowed.

  • Under MGCQ, vulnerable individuals are to remain in their residences at all times. However, those who live with them are not anymore required to do so.

  1. International travel restrictions remain under GCQ and MGCQ.

    • Filipinos are not yet allowed outbound travel to countries where travel restrictions are in place. However the following individuals may leave for abroad:

        1. Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs);

        2. Students enrolled abroad and participants accepted in exchange visitor programs;

        3. Permanent residents of foreign jurisdictions; and

        4. Stranded foreign nationals.

  2. Inbound travel of foreign nationals are still restricted, except for the following visa holders:

        1. Foreign Government and International Organization officials accredited to the Philippines;

        2. Foreign spouses and children of Filipino nationals; and

        3. Foreign crew members.

  3. Mass gatherings

    • Under GCQ, gatherings intended for the following are still prohibited:

        1. Entertainment activities;

        2. Community assemblies; and

        3. Non-essential work gatherings.

          • However, religious gatherings are allowed but limited to not more than ten (10) persons.

    • Under MGCQ, the above mentioned activities are now allowed, provided that participants therein shall be limited to fifty percent (50%) of the seating or venue capacity.

6. Sports-related Activities

  • Under GCQ, outdoor non-contact sports and other forms of exercise are allowed.

  • Under MGCQ, both outdoor non-contact sports and indoor sports are allowed.

7. In all areas under community quarantine, movement of goods are unimpeded.

1.3 Transportation

Public transportation is already allowed to operate in areas under GCQ, provided the following conditions are met:

  • Shall operate at reduced operational and vehicle capacity;

  • Observance of a one (1) meter distance between passengers; and

  • Appropriate engineering controls shall be in place.

Under MGCQ, public transportation shall be allowed to operate at the capacity in accordance with the Department of Transportation (DOTr) guidelines, with the observance of social distancing between passengers and engineering controls.

Private transportation under GCQ and MGCQ is likewise already allowed to operate for the purpose of essential travels.

1.4 Operation of Businesses and Private Establishments

As of 01 June 2020, under GCQ, almost all business and private establishments are allowed full operational capacity.

  1. However, the following establishments (Category III) are only allowed up to 50% operational capacity, with observance of health and safety protocols and without prejudice to alternative work arrangements:

    • Financial services;

    • Legal and accounting, and auditing services;

    • Barbershops and salons limited to basic hair cutting services; and

    • Other non-leisure wholesale and retail establishments.

  2. Category IV Industries as well as amusement, gaming, and fitness establishments, kids and tourism industries are likewise allowed up to fifty percent (50%) operational capacity.

  3. Limited operations in malls and shopping centers are likewise allowed, except for leisure establishments and services which shall continue to be closed.

  4. For hotels and other accommodation establishments to be allowed to operate, it must be accommodating the following:

    • Guests who have existing booking accommodations for foreigners as of 17 March 2020 for Luzon and 01 May 2020 for other areas;

    • Guests who have existing long-term bookings;

    • Distressed OFWs and stranded Filipinos or foreign nationals;

    • Repatriated OFWs in compliance with approved quarantine protocols;

    • Non-OFWs who may be required to undergo mandatory facility-based quarantine; and

    • Healthcare workers and other employees from exempted establishments under the Guidelines and applicable Memoranda from the Executive Secretary;

Provided, the following additional conditions are met:

      1. Accreditation from the Department of Tourism (DOT) and Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG);

      2. Issuance by DOT of a certificate of authority to operate; and

      3. Implementation of a skeleton workforce.

        • However, ancillary establishments such as restaurants, cafés, bars, gyms, spas, and the like, are not yet allowed to operate or to provide room service.

  1. Gradual re-opening of dine-in food establishments may begin on 15 June 2020, subject to the following conditions:

  1. Minimum public health standards protocol is cleared for distribution and compliance of the concerned sector;

  2. up to 30% operational capacity, provided:

    • venue capacity allows for social distancing protocols,

    • compliant with proper DTI protocols; and

  3. resumption/continued operations subject to compliance with health protocols set by DTI, DOLE, and DOT,

    • compliance subject to post-audit.

As of 01 June 2020, under MGCQ, work in all offices are allowed to resume physical reporting to work and at full operating capacity, with alternative work arrangements for vulnerable individuals, except those under twenty-one years of age.

  1. However, the following establishments are only allowed up to 50% capacity:

    • Barbershops, salons, and other personal care service establishments (venue capacity);

    • Dine-in, restaurants, fast-food and food retail establishments Including those in supermarkets, grocery stores, and food preparation establishments (seating capacity);

    • Category IV Industries (operational capacity);

    • Ancillary establishments in hotels (operational capacity);

  2. Hotels and other accommodation establishments are now allowed to operate up to 50% operational capacity, provided the requisite accreditation and certification from the DOT and DILG are secured.

2. The Healthcare System

Pursuant to the mandate of the Bayanihan Act and its integral role in the IATF, the Department of Health (DOH) in cooperation with the relevant government agencies, has issued a number of guidelines and implemented measures to ensure that the healthcare system in place has the capacity to contain the spread of the virus as well as provide adequate treatment to COVID-19 patients.

The following are notable measures implemented by the government:

2.1 Measures implemented

      • Implementation of the Minimum Public Health Standards to mitigate the spread of COVID-19; [link]

      • Contact tracing and screening; [link]

      • Implementation of guidelines on testing for COVID-19; [link]

      • Mass repatriation and mandatory quarantine of Overseas Filipinos; [link] [link]

      • Inclusion of COVID-19 in the list of notifiable disease for mandatory reporting to DOH; [link]

      • Issue licenses to operate COVID-19 testing laboratories to expand overall testing capacity, standardize protocols, and ensure quality as well as safety measures; [link]

      • Imposition of price freeze of essential emergency medicines and medical devices; [link]

      • Activation of DOH Subnational Laboratories to shore up overall healthcare system response; [link]

      • Implementation of a unified guidelines for all public and private health facilities and institutions on the necessary precautions, preparations, and management of persons under investigation (PUI) and confirmed COVID-19 cases; [link]

      • Adoption of WHO Interim Guidelines for health workers exposure risk assessment and management; [link]

      • Conversion of public spaces to operate as temporary treatment and monitoring facilities of Persons Under Investigation (PUIs) and COVID-19 cases (asymptomatic and mild) to manage surge capacity; [link] [link]

      • Temporary re-deployment of nurses under the government’s Nurse Deployment Program from rural health facilities to DOH and Local Government Unit Hospitals as well as emergency hiring of additional health personnel to augment hospital staff;

      • Use of Telemedicine or the practice of medicine by means of electronic and telecommunications technologies to deliver healthcare remotely between a patient and a physician during the pandemic;

      • Strict implementation of data protection and privacy principles in the collection, processing, and disclosure of COVID-19 related data; [link]

3. Government Subsidies, Financial and Loan Assistance Packages

Pursuant to Sections 4(c), (x) and subsections (v)(4), (5),(6), and (8) of the Bayanihan Act, below are the notable measures the government implemented to alleviate the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic especially upon the vulnerable sectors of society, to wit:

3.1 Emergency Subsidy Program (ESP) through Social Amelioration Program (SAP)

The Emergency Subsidy Program (ESP) implemented by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), is a social amelioration program that provides cash or non-cash subsidy to eighteen (18) million low-income household beneficiaries, in the amount of at least Five Thousand Pesos (approx. $100 US) to a maximum of Eight Thousand Pesos (approx. $160 US) per month for two (2) months, to defray the costs of basic food, medicine, and toiletries.

Target beneficiaries:

A. Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) Beneficiaries;

B. Families with low income;

  • Directly hired or occasional worker/s

  • Subcontracted worker/s

  • Homeworkers

  • House helpers

  • Drivers of public utility vehicles

  • Drivers and operators of tricycles, pedicabs

  • Micro-entrepreneurs and producers, operators of sari-sari stores

  • Family enterprise owners

  • Sub-minimum wage earners

  • Farmers

  • Fisherfolk

  • Stranded workers

C. Indigent families of indigenous peoples and other vulnerable groups.

3.2 COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP)

The COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP) implemented by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), is a safety net program for affected workers in the formal sector to mitigate the adverse economic impacts of reduction of income brought about the COVID-19 pandemic. It includes a one-time financial assistance of Five Thousand Pesos ($100 US) and employment facilitation.

The target beneficiaries:

  • Private establishments that have implemented Flexible Work Arrangements (FWAs) or temporary closure as mitigating measures due to the COVID-19 pandemic;

  • Workers in private establishments whose working hours and, therefore, regular wage is reduced due to the implementation of FWAs;

  • Workers in private establishments whose employment is temporarily suspended by reason of operations of the employer’s business establishment; and

  • Workers in the formal economy, regardless of status, or those who are employed by any person acting directly or indirectly in the interest of an employer in relation to an employee.

3.3 Small Business Wage Subsidy (SBWS)

The SBWS is a program being implemented by the Department of Finance (DOF), Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), and the Social Security System (SSS). Under the SBWS measure, eligible employees can receive a wage subsidy of between Five Thousand Pesos ($100 US) to Eight Thousand Pesos ($160 US) based on the regional minimum wage, per month, for two (2) months.

The following requirements must be met to be eligible to receive the wage subsidy:

  • Must be an employee of an eligible small business;

  • Must be employed and active as of March 1, 2020 but unable to work due to the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ);

  • Did not get paid by their employer for at least two (2) weeks during the temporary closure or suspension of work in accordance with Labor Advisory No. 1, Series of 2020;

  • Can be of any contract status (e.g., regular, probationary, regular seasonal, project-based, fixed-term employment); and

  • Must be certified by the employer in the application as having met all the above criteria.

3.4 Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Displaced/Disadvantaged Workers (TUPAD) Program

Another program being implemented by DOLE is the “Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Displaced/Disadvantaged Workers (TUPAD) Program”. TUPAD is a community-based safety net program that provides temporary wage employment to the informal workers.

The following are included in the package:

  • Payment of wages equivalent to 100% of the prevailing highest minimum wage in the region;

  • Enrollment to group micro-insurance; and

  • Conduct of basic orientation on safety and health through dissemination of brochures.

Target beneficiaries:

A. Informal Workers such as but not limited to:

  • Underemployed;

  • Self-employed; and

  • Displaced marginalized workers

3.5 DOLE-AKAP for (Overseas Filipino Workers) OFWs

DOLE-AKAP for OFWs is a program under the DOLE extending financial assistance to displaced Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This consists of a one-time financial assistance of Ten Thousand Pesos ($200 US) for displaced OFWs.

The target beneficiaries:

A. Regular/Documented OFW, as defined in the 2016 Revised Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) Rules and Regulations:

  • who possesses a valid passport and appropriate visa or permit to stay and work in the receiving country; and

  • whose contract of employment has been processed by the POEA or the Philippine Labor Office (PLO).

B. Qualified Undocumented OFW:

  • who were originally regular or documented workers but for some reason or cause have thereafter lost their regular or documented status;

  • who are not registered with the POEA or whose contracts were not processed by POEA or the PLO, but have undertaken actions to regularize their contracts or status; or

  • who are not registered with the POEA or whose contracts were not processed by POEA or the PLO, but are active Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) members at the time of availment.

C. Balik-Manggagawa who are unable to return to the host country in view of the host country’s lockdown due to COVID-19.

3.6 Expanded Survival and Recovery Aid (SURE-Aid) Program or SURE Covid-19 Financing Program

The Expanded SURE-Aid Program is being implemented by the Department of Agriculture (DA), through the Agricultural Credit Policy Council (ACPC).

Under the Program, eligible farmers and fisherfolk can avail a loan of up to Twenty Five Thousand Pesos ($500 US) with zero interest, no collateral and payable in ten (10) years. On the other hand, micro and small enterprises (MSEs) can borrow up to Ten Million Pesos ($200,000 US) with zero interest and payable in five (5) years.

The target beneficiaries:

  • Small farmers and fisherfolk whose livelihood was affected by the calamity/pandemic; and

  • Young agriculture entrepreneurs, SMEs and agri-fishery cooperatives and associations.

3.7 Financial Subsidy to Rice Farmers (FSRF)

The FSRF consists of a one-time financial assistance amounting to Five Thousand Pesos ($100 US).

Target beneficiaries:

  • Rice farmers with farm sizes ranging from one (1) hectare and below and listed under the Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture (RSBSA).

3.8 COVID-19 Pondo Para sa Pagbabago at Pag-asenso Enterprise Rehabilitation Fund (P3-ERF) or COVID-19 Assistance to Restart Enterprises (CARES) Program

P3-ERF or CARES is a One Billion Peso ($20,000,000 US) special financing program under the Pondo sa Pagbabago at Pag-asenso (P3) which was set up to support micro and small businesses affected by the pandemic.

The loan is available to:

  • All micro and small enterprises;

  • At least one (1) year continuous operation prior to March 2020;

  • Businesses suffered drastic reduction in sales during the ensuing pandemic; and

  • Asset size is not more than Fifteen Million Pesos ($300,000 US).

3.9 COVID-19 Emergency Loan Program Online

COVID-19 Emergency Loan Program Online is a program under the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) where members and pensioners may take out a Twenty Thousand Peso ($400 US)-loan payable in three (3) years at only six percent (6%) interest per year. The loan is covered by an insurance, which deems the loan fully paid in case of the borrower’s demise.

All members of GSIS will be benefited, except those who belong in the following:

  • Employees who are on leave without pay;

  • Those who have unpaid loans for more than 6 months; and

  • Employees that have incurred arrears in paying mandatory life contributions

3.10 COVID-19 Benefits for Inpatient Care under the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation

The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation shall provide coverage for inpatient care to probable and confirmed COVID-19 Filipino patients.

4. Employment

4.1 Alternative Work Arrangements in the Private Sector

Implementation of FWAs

  • The government encouraged employers, after consultation with their employees, to adopt flexible work arrangements, rather than outright termination of employees or total closure of businesses.

  • When feasible, work from home or telecommuting work arrangements are highly encouraged.

  • Other flexible work schemes may be adopted, such as but not limited to:

  1. branch transfers;

  2. job reassignment;

  3. workday reduction;

  4. job rotation;

  5. partial closure;

  6. other arrangements specific to the peculiarities of a business; or

  7. a combination of any of the above.

Adjustment of Wages

  • Employers and employees may agree voluntarily and in writing to temporarily adjust employees’ wage and wage-related benefits as provided for in employment contract, company policy, or collective bargaining agreement.

  • Wage adjustments shall not exceed six (6) months, or the period provided in the CBA. After such period, employers and employees shall review their agreement and may renew the same.

4.2 Health Standards Implemented in the Workplace

Observance of Minimum Health Standards

The cost of COVID-19 prevention measures shall be borne by the employer.

4.3 Compensation Benefit and Insurance Coverage of Public and Private Health Workers

Compensation Benefits of Health Workers under the Bayanihan Act:

  • One Hundred Thousand Pesos (approx. $2,000 US) shall be given to a health worker who may contract severe COVID-19 infection while in the line of duty;

  • One Million Pesos (approx. $20,000 US) shall be given to a health worker who dies while fighting the COVID-19 infection; and

  • Coverage of all medical expenses in case of exposure to COVID-19 or any work related injury or disease during the duration of the State of National Emergency.

Benefits shall apply retroactively from 01 February 2020.

5. Consumer Protection

5.1 Anti-Hoarding, Anti-Panic Buying, Price Freeze and Control

Price Control

  • On March 19, 2020, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) issued a Memorandum which provided measures to prevent unreasonable increase in the prices of all basic necessities and to ensure availability of vital and essential commodities during the duration of Public Health Emergency.

Anti-Hoarding/Panic-buying

  • Imposed a limit to the quantity of the sale or purchase of covered goods as to meet their needs only for a maximum of seven (7) days.

For instance:

  • Purchase of disinfectant alcohol regardless of volume shall only be allowed up to two (2) pieces per person;

  • toilet paper roll up to twenty (20) pieces or one (1) pack, and

  • face masks up to five (5) pieces.

Price Freeze

  • Prices of basic necessities were also automatically frozen at their prevailing rates.

On March 31, 2020, the DTI expanded the covered goods to include other vital or essential goods.

  • Excluded from the coverage purchases made by the National and Local Governments, provided that:

  1. the purchase is pursuant to a program to distribute basic grocery items to qualified beneficiaries and

  2. the retailer shall still have sufficient stocks for regular consumers.

Adoption of measures by LGUs

  • The enacted ordinance adopting the above mentioned measures shall be implemented by the concerned LGU in coordination with the DTI.

  • Should there be any discrepancy between the DTI implementation and ordinance with respect to the quantity limit per transaction, the measure which prescribes the smaller quantity shall be followed.

5.2 Imposition of Grace Period on the Payment of Residential and Commercial Rents

On 15 March 2020, prior to the passage of the Bayanihan Act, the DTI has already put in place measures which directly relate to the operation of business establishments in the National Capital Region (NCR).

  • The DTI limited mall operations and only allowed establishments offering basic necessities, such as:

  1. groceries and supermarkets;

  2. banks;

  3. pharmacies;

  4. health clinics;

  5. bookstores; and

  6. hardware stores.

  • Lessors/owners of the business spaces of closed establishments were ordered to waive the corresponding rental fees or charges thereof.

  • Businesses offering leisure and entertainment that gather crowds in confined areas were prohibited from opening, such as:

    1. bars;

    2. pubs;

    3. art and recreation activity establishments; and

    4. gambling facilities.

  • As a result, lessors/owners of the business spaces of these establishments were likewise ordered to waive the rental fees during the period.

  • Payment of rents were not waived for all other businesses, establishments and offices in the NCR that were not covered by the DTI Circular.

Imposition of grace periods

On 04 April 2020, another Circular was issued to provide Filipinos and businesses, particularly MSMEs economic relief, albeit rental fees were not waived. However, certain concessions were made:

  • For residential rents:

    1. a minimum of thirty (30) days grace period is granted on residential rents falling due within the period of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ);

    2. without incurring interests, penalties, fees, and other charges; and

    3. the cumulative amount of rents falling due within the ECQ, shall be equally amortized in the six (6) months following the end of the ECQ, and shall be added to the rents due on those succeeding months, without interest, penalties, fees, and charges;

  • For commercial rents:

    1. a minimum of thirty (30) days grace period is granted on commercial rents falling due upon MSMEs that have temporarily ceased operations within the period of the ECQ;

    2. without incurring interests, penalties, fees, and other charges; and

    3. The cumulative amount of rents due within the ECQ, shall be equally amortized in the next six (6) months following the end of the ECQ, and shall be added to the rents due on those succeeding months, without interests, penalties, fees, and charges.

On 02 June 2020, the DTI has expanded the scope of the concessions to residential and commercial rents falling due during ECQ, MECQ, and GCQ for residential lessees, MSMEs and sectors not permitted to operate during said period.

Specifically:

  • The grant of a minimum thirty (30) day grace period shall commence from:

    1. the lifting of the covered community quarantine, or

    2. from the date the tenant is allowed to resume employment or business operation, whichever comes first;

      • Without incurring interest, penalties, fees, and other charges.

  • Clarifies the documentary requirements needed to avail of the concessions; and

  • Reiterates that no eviction for failure to pay may be enforced from March 17, 2020 when ECQ took effect until the end of the grace period by a lessor to a lessee.

6. Business Incentives

6.1 Measures implemented

On March 28, 2020, the DTI and the Department of Finance (DOF) issued Joint Memorandum Circular No. 2020-02 which provides the guidelines on the operations and incentives of covered enterprises engaged in:

  • manufacture;

  • importation; and

  • distribution of certain healthcare products.

The incentives granted to covered enterprises in relation to covered products include the following:

    • Exemption from import duties, taxes and fees;

    • Simplified release of said imported goods; and

    • Suspension of the export requirement under the laws administered by the relevant Investment Promotion Authorities.

7. Relaxation of Statutory/Regulatory Submissions and Payments

7.1 Securities and Exchange Commission

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) eased some of its procedural requirements and provided extended deadlines for the filing of reports and other submissions.

Some of the pertinent issuances are, as follows:

a. Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 05, s. 2020 (Published March 12, 2020)

  • Extension without penalty, within which to submit Annual Reports and/or Annual Financial Statements for the period ended 31 December 2019.

  • Given to companies affected by:

      1. travel restrictions/bans; and/or

      2. temporary suspension of business operations.

  • The extension was subsequently expanded to cover the period ended 30 November 2019;

b. MC No. 06, s. 2020 (Effective March 12, 2020)

  • Provide corporations guidance in formulating internal procedures and bylaws which will allow participation and voting in meetings in absentia or through remote modes of communication;

c. MC No. 9, s. 2020 (Effective March 18, 2020)

  • Guidelines for the filing of the General Information Sheet (GIS) during the Covid-19 outbreak and ECQ;

d. MC No. 10, s. 2020 (Effective March 20, 2020)

  • Filing of reportorial requirements by electronic mail as a social distancing measure.

  • SEC shall thereafter require physical copies of the reportorial submissions according to established rules and regulations once the state of public health emergency is lifted;

e. Notice (Issued April 20, 2020)

  • Alternative mode for complying with the existing requirements to conduct the Annual Stockholders’ Meeting (ASM) for 2020.

      • As an option, all publicly listed companies (PLCs) and other companies with registered securities under the Markets and Securities Regulation Department (MSRD) supervision may notify their stockholders about the ASM by causing the publication of the Notice of Meeting in the business section of two (2) newspaper of general circulation, in print and online format, for two (2) consecutive days, subject to the guidelines provided.

f. MC No. 16, s. 2020 (Published April 30, 2020)

  • Guidelines for authentication were issued for easy company registration.

  • Authentication by Incorporators as a new mode of authenticating Articles of Incorporation:

    1. Incorporators of new domestic corporations may opt to execute a Certificate of Authentication in lieu of notarization.

  • Articles of Incorporation executed outside the Philippines may be apostilled, notarized or consularized.

  • The application for the registration of foreign investments (SEC Form F-100) must be authenticated only if the same is executed outside the Philippines.

g. MC No. 17, s. 2020 (Published May 15, 2020)

  • For the filing of (i) Annual Reports and Audited Financial Statements of Publicly Listed Companies; (ii) Annual Reports and AFS of other issuers of registered securities and (iii) AFS of all other companies:

  1. Companies with fiscal years ending 31 January 2020 to 31 March 2020 were granted extension of deadlines for a period of 60 calendar days from the regular filing deadlines;

  2. while for the companies with fiscal year ending 30 April 2020, an extension of the deadline for the submission of the reports for a period of 45 calendar days from the regular filing deadline.

7.2 Bureau of Internal Revenue

The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) has issued a number of regulations in view of the state of public health emergency and the implementation of Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) in the whole of Luzon and in other areas of the country.

Some of the pertinent issuances are, as follows:

a. Revenue Regulations (“RR”) No. 7-2020 (Effective March 30, 2020)

  • Extended the statutory deadlines and timelines for the submission and/or filing of several documents and/or returns, as well as the payment of several taxes specified in the Regulations.

b. Revenue Memorandum Circular (“RMC”) No. 38-2020 (Effective April 8, 2020)

  • The deadline for the availment of the tax amnesty on delinquencies was extended to June 8, 2020.

c. RR No. 11-2020 (Effective April 30, 2020) and RR No. 12-2020 (Effective May 21, 2020)

  • Extended the period for filing of the Annual Income Tax Returns or “AITR” for Taxable Year 2019;

  • Extended payment of the corresponding taxes, until June 14, 2020 throughout the Philippines.

    • Since the new extended due date falls on a non-working day (Sunday), the submission and/or filing of the AITR shall then be the next working day (June 15, 2020).

d. RMC No. 43-2020 (Effective April 17, 2020)

  • Relaxed policies on the acceptance of tax returns and payment of taxes for taxpayers located in areas under ECQ.

  • Taxpayers may pay at the nearest Authorized Agent Banks (“AABs”), regardless of jurisdiction.

  • Taxpayers may also file and pay at the nearest Revenue District Office (“RDO”), even in areas where there are AABs.

e. RMC 48-2020 (Effective May 22, 2020)

  • The leniency in the filing of the returns and payment of taxes is further extended until June 14, 2020.

f. RMC No. 56-2020 (Effective June 2, 2020)

  • Clarified the manner of filing of returns and payment of internal revenue taxes until June 14, 2020.

8. The Judiciary

The Supreme Court likewise adopted several COVID-19 related issuances in order to address the national emergency.

8.1 In Civil, Administrative and Criminal Proceedings

On 13 March 2020, a Task Force was created to address the rising cases of COVID-19 infection under Memorandum Order No. 26-2020.

On 16 March 2020, Administrative Circular No. 31-2020 was issued.

  • All courts nationwide drastically reduced operations and only maintained the necessary skeleton-staff to act on urgent matters, such as but not limited to:

  1. Petitions, motions and pleadings in relation to bail and habeas corpus;

  2. Promulgation of judgments of acquittals;

  3. Reliefs for those who may be arrested and detained during this period, and

  4. Other related actions that may be filed in relation to measures imposed at the local or national levels to address the health emergency.

  • Filing of petitions and appeals, complaints, motions, pleadings and other court submissions that fall due during the period from 15 March until 15 April 2020 was extended for thirty (30) calendar days counted from 16 April 2020.

  • Court actions with prescribed periods were also extended for thirty (30) calendar days counted from 16 April 2020.

On 20 March 2020, Administrative Circular No. 32-2020, was issued.

  • All courts nationwide were physically closed to all court users, and could only be reached through their respective hotlines, email addresses, and Facebook accounts, effective 23 March 2020.

  • Only in urgent cases that the justice or judge on duty and their skeleton staff were allowed to go to court, receive documents and act on the same.

  • In other cases, all judges, justices, and skeleton staff were ordered to stay in their respective residences.

On 18 May 2020, Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) Circular No. 96-2020 was issued.

  • Enumerated court stations are authorized to pilot-test hearings through videoconferencing of all matters pending before them, in both criminal and civil cases, regardless of the stage of the trial, during the public health emergency.

  • Under OCA No. 100-2020, additional court stations were authorized to pilot-test hearings through videoconferencing.

On 29 May 2020, by virtue of the implementation of General Community Quarantine (GCQ) over many parts of the country, Administrative Circular No. 41-2020 was issued.

  • All courts and offices of the courts nationwide beginning 01 June 2020 shall be in full operation;

  • Night and Saturday courts shall will remain suspended;

  • Provides the procedure for electronic filing of pleadings and other court submissions;

  • All inquiries on cases and transactions shall still be initially coursed through the hotline numbers, email addresses and/or Facebook accounts of the courts;

  • Hearings of cases shall all be in-court, except:

    1. Cases involving Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDLs) who shall continue to appear remotely from the detention facility; and

    2. Cases with extraordinary circumstances, as may be determined by the justices and judges.

On 31 May 2020, an Announcement was made which stated that videoconferencing hearings will continue.

  • A party may file a motion for videoconferencing and the court can either grant or deny the motion.

On 01 June 2020, OCA Circular No. 99-2020 was issued.

  • All courts must submit daily reports on the following cases:

    1. Release of qualified PDLs, or on reduced bail and recognizance for qualified indigent PDLs, including those released through online posting of bail; and

    2. children in conflict with the law.

  • All courts shall continue to submit weekly reports of videoconferencing hearings conducted.

8.2 Cybersecurity protocols

On 08 May 2020, OCA Circular No. 92-2020 was issued.

  • Distribution of the Official Philippine Judiciary Office 365 Accounts;

  • Purpose of this measure is for electronic filing and videoconferencing hearings of criminal cases involving Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDLs);

  • Outlook will be used for emails and Teams for videoconferencing hearings.

OCA Circular No. 95-2020 was likewise issued.

  • A webinar for judges and court personnel was conducted and was entitled, “The New Normal: Cybersecurity in a Covid-free, Malware-free Judiciary.”

9. Education

9.1 Basic Education

For basic education (Kinder to Grade 12):

  • The Department of Education (DepEd) set the opening of the school year 2020-2021 to 24 August 2020;

  • School year will end on 30 April 2021;

  • No face-to-face classes will be allowed earlier than August 24, 2020;

    • Even if private schools and state/local universities and colleges offering basic education will be allowed to open classes within the period from the first Monday of June to the last day of August.

  • Face-to-face classes may be conducted only in areas allowed to open physically.

School opening will not necessarily mean traditional face-to-face learning in classroom.

  • Physical opening of schools will depend on the risk severity grading or classification of a locality, pursuant to governmental guidelines.

  • Even in areas where schools are allowed to open, physical distancing will still be required, which necessitate schools to combine face-to-face learning with distance learning.

  • Enrollment is set to begin on 01 June 2020 but will be done remotely for the first two weeks.

9.2 Higher Education

Face-to-face or in-person classes are still suspended until further directives from the IATF or issuance by the proper government authority that the province or city will be under Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ). [link]

  • The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) allowed Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in alternative modes of instruction in lieu of in-campus classes;

      • However, the exercise of discretion by the HEIs and their faculty must be reasonable, transparent and outcomes-based validated.

HEI’s using the old academic calendar (June-May) are allowed to finish their current academic period (whether semester, trimester, quarter, or equivalent) by April 30, 2020.

HEI’s using the new academic calendar (August-July) are authorized to extend their semester for a maximum of one month after the lifting of the enhanced community quarantine. [link]