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Philippines to impose COVID-19 vaccine mandate for on-site workers

Photo by Michael Varcas, The Philippine Star

By Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza, Reporter

The Philippine government will require employees, both public and private, doing on-site work to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), but only in areas with a stable supply of vaccines.

Palace spokesman Herminio “Harry” L. Roque, Jr. said in a statement on Friday that the vaccine mandate will be implemented in areas with a stable supply of COVID-19 vaccine starting Dec. 1. He did not identify these areas.

“Eligible employees who remain to be unvaccinated may not be terminated but they shall be required to undergo regular RT-PCR testing, or antigen tests, at their own expense,” he said.

The vaccine mandate shall also apply to workers in public transportation, Mr. Roque said.

He said the national government also allows public and private establishments to deny service to individuals who are either unvaccinated or partially vaccinated “despite being eligible for vaccination.”

“Frontline and emergency services, on the other hand, shall continue to render assistance to all persons, regardless of vaccination status,” he said.

Employees who will be vaccinated during working hours should not be considered absent upon sufficient proof of a confirmed vaccination schedule, Mr. Roque said. Only medical clearance issued by a government health office and birth certificate shall serve as sufficient and valid proof of ineligibility for vaccination.

“To ramp up demand for vaccination, local government units (LGUs) are strongly enjoined to issue orders or ordinances providing incentives for fully vaccinated individuals, and for business establishments to require proof of vaccination before individuals and/or entities may undertake or qualify for certain activities,” he said.

On Thursday, Mr. Roque said 66.8 million doses of coronavirus vaccines had been given out as of Nov. 10. Nearly 30.5 million people or 39.51% of adult Filipinos have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, he added.

In the National Capital Region, 91.10% or 8.9 million out of the 9.8-million residents have been fully inoculated against COVID-19.

Business groups earlier urged the government to allow the private sector to impose stricter requirements on unvaccinated employees and patrons, and to decline unvaccinated job applicants.

George T. Barcelon, chairman of the Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc, warned that the latest vaccination mandate may lead to a decrease in the country’s workforce.

“Certain sectors might see a decrease, but not so much. It might happen because some are asked not to come in to work,” he said by telephone.

Mr. Barcelon said company officials who are afraid of losing skilled workers may shoulder the costs of their unvaccinated employees’ coronavirus tests.

He said the government should consider subsidizing the COVID-19 tests since the number of people who refuse to be vaccinated has declined. “It must show a bit of heart.”

A poll conducted by the Social Weather Stations from Sept. 27 to 30 showed that 64% of adult Filipinos were now willing to get vaccinated against COVID-19, up from 55% in June.

Mr. Roque has said lawmakers need to pass a law to make mandatory COVID-19 vaccination legal.

A bill seeking to make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory is still pending at the House of Representatives.

Philippine health authorities have said compulsory COVID-19 vaccination would help the country achieve herd immunity. The Philippines targets to inoculate at least 50% of its adult population by yearend.

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