Close to 100 establishments in the province have already filed for closure with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) as the pandemic lockdowns that started in March hit the local economy severely.

Palawan chief labor and employment officer Luis Evangelista told Palawan News that as of June, about a hundred establishments have closed operation “permanently” and many have suspended operations to cope with the situation.

“Doon sa category na temporary close o suspended talaga ‘yong operation nila kahit binigyan na ng go signal na pupuwede mag-operate. Wala kaming exact figure pero nasa more or less 100 establishments, Palawan-wide, including ng Puerto Princesa,” he said.

“Noong una, due to enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), talagang halos stop ang operation pero hindi pa considered na stop talaga kung hindi ito na lang noong nag-ease na talaga ‘yong community quarantine na pinapayagan na mag-operate. Doon pa lang sila nagsa-submit kasi hindi sila basta na ‘sarado na ako’. They have to submit a report for that,” he said.

Evangelista said that DOLE Palawan began to receive reports of business closures from employers in May after the quarantine controls were relaxed as the province shifted to general community quarantine (GCQ).

Most of the businesses which opted for closure were tourism-related businesses such as travel and tours, ticketing offices, and some restaurants. There were also small hotels and accommodation facilities that temporarily closed.

Evangelista also noted that many of the businesses that have closed were from the towns of Coron, El Nido, and Puerto Princesa, all primary tourism destinations in the province.

He added they are anticipating more business closures.

“Ini-expect namin na more than that pa ang mag-i-inform sa amin na sila ay magko-close. Kasi nga, particularly, ‘yong tourism-related kung saan titingnan natin na ang Palawan, ang malaking ekonomiya niya ay nasa turismo. ‘Yon ang nakikita namin na malaking dagok sa ekonomiya ng Palawan,” he said.


Retrenchment in 100 establishments

He said that there were also around a hundred establishments that reported for retrenchment in an attempt to keep their businesses afloat.

“Expected (na tataas), even fast food, may reports submitted sa amin na sila ay nag-retrench. Mga hotels, malalaking restaurants na talagang nag-retrench sila. Ang iniiwan na lang nila ay lima or 10 out of 30 workers,” he said.

Evangelista said that DOLE is stll valdating if the retrenchments done by establishements were justified.

He added that even if companies and establishments still want to retain the number of their employees, they stressed that they can no longer sustain the expenses due to the impact of the pandemic on their income.

Most of the establishments that retrenched their employees were also from the towns of El Nido, Coron, and the city of Puerto Princesa.

He said that DOLE is giving certification to the displaced workers to allow them to apply for Social Security System (SSS) unemployment benefits. He said DOLE Palawan has issued around 300 certificates to retrenched workers.


Retrenched OFWs

Even Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) who already have contracts but were not able to leave the country are also considered as retrenched, he said.

“Puwede natin i-equate siya na ‘yong mga na-retrench ay ‘yon ang mga nag-request sa amin so nasa 300 plus na ‘yong nag-request sa main. May possibility na ‘yong iba ay hindi pa rin nakakapag-request sa amin ng certification. More or less nasa 300 plus na sa ngayon,” he said.

Evangelista said that DOLE will also call the attention of employers who will fail to release the separation pay and 13th-month pay of their displaced workers.

“Ang DOLE ay tuloy-tuloy na tumatanggap ng request for certificate of unemployment, isa sa main requirement ni SSS para sila ay mabigyan ng unemployment benefits insurance. Ito ay para sa mga natanggal na hindi nila kasalanan, dalawa kasi ang pagtanggal sa empleyado, authorized cause and just cause,” he said.

“Iyong authorized cause, iyan ang pwede natin bigyan ng certificate of unemployment, ‘yong just cause ay natanggal dahil may kasalanan ‘yong empleyado, hindi siya kasama. Basta pupunta rito sa aming opisina, dadalhin lang ‘yong notice of termination nila at kanilang identification, most especially ang kanilang SSS UMID, any valid ID na sila related doon sa company,” he added.