‘Better normal’ bill step toward ‘resilient pandemic recovery,’ say House leaders

Published August 11, 2020, 1:24 PM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza 

The House of Representatives has finally approved the proposed “Better Normal for the Workplace, Communities, and Public Spaces Act of 2020.”

On Monday, a total of 242 House members voted for the passage of HB 6864, which establishes public health and environmental standards and safeguards for the better normal in the workplace, public places, and communities.

Deputy Speaker and Antique Rep. Loren Legarda (Congresswoman Loren Legarda Official Facebook Page / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

House Deputy Speaker and Antique Lone District Rep. Loren Legarda has applauded the measure, describing it as a step toward the country’s sustainable and resilient pandemic recovery. 

House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez said,  “As soon as we adapt to the new normal, businesses can resume operations and workers can go back to their jobs without fear of contracting the dreaded coronavirus.”

He added that “through physical distancing and other stringent safety and health protocols, we can also keep our families safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.”

“This measure will help improve our policies and actions in the context of the pandemic, ranging from health, environment, education, agriculture, labor and industrial sector, tourism, arts and culture, and how we can all adapt and adjust to the current situation of our society.” Legarda, the main proponent of the bill, said. 

Legarda said HB 6864 aims to foster a just and equitable transition to a climate-resilient, inclusive, and sustainable future, and further details the policies governing the management of public spaces and public transportation and the Better Normal for the education sector, e-governance, and in the workplaces to help stem the spread of the virus.

“The bill strengthens the synergy between and among national government agencies, local government units, and the private sector by defining their roles and responsibilities in the better normal,” she said.

She also cited that the measure seeks to develop the country’s digital infrastructure through the National Broadband Plan of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT).

Under HB 6864,  owners, managers, or administrators of public spaces and workplaces are required to  establish handwashing facilities or sanitizing stations and to monitor the temperature of their visiting guests. The bill also promotes “contact-less” payment mechanisms, Romualdez noted. 

The bill also requires physical distancing of at least one meter between individuals whenever in public spaces and in the workplace.

According to the House leader, the bill also aims to address issues on water supply, sanitation, and waste management, which are key in containing the spread of the virus.

“The bill also seeks to protect the vulnerable sectors of our society not only from the affliction of COVID-19, but also by helping them cope with the changes brought about by the pandemic,” Legarda said. 

She noted that HB 6864 also provides for a Sunset Clause, such that after its enactment, the law will be effective for three years, or sooner upon official declaration that the pandemic caused by COVID-19 has already been eradicated. 

“With the growing number of recorded cases and resurgence of infections in other countries, including the disturbing studies that the manner of COVID-19 transmission is evolving, we remain susceptible to the novel coronavirus. I hope that the approval of this bill will educate and empower our people as we work together to diminish our present vulnerabilities and pursue a sustainable and resilient pandemic recovery,” Legarda said.