To ensure safe and healthy working environment for workers as well as protect the community especially the vulnerable population amid the COVID-19 public health crisis, the Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP) Social and Environmental Safeguards (SES) Unit issued the Supplemental Guidelines on Community and Occupational Safety and Health (COSH) during implementation of PRDP subprojects on June 10, 2020.

The Project will adhere to the Minimum Health Protocols and Standards recommended by the DOH in conducting essential project activities especially for its infrastructure (I-BUILD) and enterprise (I-REAP) subprojects. These include taking of body temperature, regular handwashing, wearing of face masks, observing cough etiquette, and physical distancing. PRDP shall adopt blended methodologies in conducting consultations, trainings, technical coaching, meetings, technical reviews, procurement activities, validations, appraisal reviews, monitoring, supervision, grievance investigation and resolution, and other activities that involve interaction.

The Project recommended that costs to be incurred in observing the COVID-19 measures shall be shouldered by the employers and principals of the service contract. Workers will not be charged with either direct or indirect costs. The guidelines also underscored that as said expenses were not integrated in the subprojects’ feasibility study and business plan, costs in implementing the mandatory mitigation and control measures shall be charged to the proponent local government unit (LGU) and the enterprise proponent groups (PGs). This is because the former serves as the principal of the service contract for I-BUILD subprojects while the latter acts as business owner and employer of I-REAP subprojects. The Project also allows cost-sharing between the LGU and winning contractor as well as between the LGU and the PG considering their funding limitations because of the pandemic. This is to guarantee that all subprojects will comply with the required health protocols and standards prior to their resumption of operations.  

Moreover, the SES unit issued supplemental guidelines prior to deployment for construction and during construction. These guidelines contain specific provisions based on the Project’s Integrated Environmental and Social Safeguards Framework (IESSF) in harmony with international and local guidelines. PRDP also provides specific COSH guidelines for I-REAP and I-BUILD operations based on the harmonized IESSF and the joint DTI and DOLE interim guidelines on workplace intervention and control of COVID-19 issued on April 30, 2020 and the Department of Health’s Memorandum No. 2020-0220 dated May 11, 2020 with subject interim guidelines on the return-to-work. The said issuance covers guidelines on workplace safety and health as well as the duties of employer and LGU. 

According to Department of Agriculture-Bicol Field Operations Division OIC-Chief and PRDP-Bicol SES Unit Head Dr. Mary Grace Dp. Rodriguez, her office has already disseminated copies of the supplemental guidelines on COSH to concerned LGUs with ongoing PRDP I-BUILD and I-REAP subprojects on June 18, 2020. She added that the PRDP-Bicol’s SES unit has assigned Safety Officers who completed the 40-hour training on COSH conducted by a DOLE-accredited training center for safety and health in December 2019.

“For PRDP, this will become a good reference on how we can continue to become effective and efficient with our projects but adhering at the same time to government protocols on COVID-19,” Rodriguez said.

During the 10th World Bank (WB) Implementation Support Mission Exit Conference held on June 24, 2020, WB Social Development Specialist Marivi Ladia commended the SES unit for producing the said guidelines. She noted that the systems and mechanisms that were put in place under PRDP with regard to safeguards have been successful in integrating various flexibilities and additional actions in response to COVID-19. The supplemental guidelines on COSH during implementation of PRDP subprojects amidst the COVID-19 public health crisis adopt and harmonize several government agencies’ issuances in implementing the PRDP particularly its I-BUILD and I-REAP subprojects and other project activities. These include the Revised Construction Safety Guidelines for the Implementation of PRDP covering the Infrastructure Projects during COVID-19 public health crisis by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the joint Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Interim Guidelines on Workplace Prevention and Control of COVID-19, the Department of Health’s (DOH) Interim Guidelines on the Return-to-Work, the Amended Guide to Action Against the 2019 Novel Coronavirus Acute Respiratory Diseases issued by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) Guidelines on Food Safety for the Philippine Agricultural and Fishery Sectors during COVID-19 pandemic. (Annielyn L. Baleza, DA-RAFIS V)