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Senate of the Philippines

Senators studying ‘liability shield’ for Philippine firms

The Philippine Senate is seriously considering providing a “liability shield” for local businesses, on the trail of a similar bill filed in the US Congress that many American businessmen are clamoring when the US economy starts to reopen.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III intends to file an enabling bill so Senators can start deliberation while the US Congress debates on their counterpart measure.

Senator Joel Villanueva, chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development, said they intend to get inputs from both the labor sector and employers should a bill be filed proposing remedial “liability shield” measure.

Villanueva confirmed they are also proposing that “when businesses reopen, companies should be responsible to regularly test and monitor their workers and ensure proper sanitation of the work force to make sure that the spread of COVID-19 infections is controlled.”

“Disease surveillance and monitoring may entail an additional operating cost, but it will always be smaller compared to the cost of treating a patient and shutting down the entire operation indefinitely,” he added.

Sen. Imee Marcos, who chairs the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs, is not too keen about a liability shield law. “I am uncertain that a liability shield in the Philippine legal context will have similar effectivity,” said Marcos. “The notion of customers or employees suing large businesses and their corporate employers remains largely alien to us.”

She explained she will instead file a “comprehensive and precise New Normal Bill, defining the responsibilities of employers and the corresponding penalties for violation.”

“A liability shield bill will also have its pros and cons. It protects businesses from any liability during the pandemic. These have to be weighed cautiously especially in a situation where the economy is reopening, At first glance, it can be confusing and may put business, labor and consumers into opposing positions, which is not what we need during the critical and delicate phase of reopening the economy,” she added.

Sen. Koko Pimentel said “in the United States, they are forced to open their businesses. Here in the Philippines, even if we lift all restrictions, no one is being forced to open his business.”

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