MANILA — Various government agencies on Friday signed a joint memorandum circular to implement a safety seal certification program for government and business establishments which will require the use of the StaySafe.ph digital contact tracing app.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez led the virtual signing of the joint memorandum circular between the Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Health, Department of the Interior and Local Government and the Department of Tourism.
Also present during the signing were Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año and representatives of other agencies.
“What the Safety Seal does, at least alam na nung tao (at least people know), even without asking, malayo pa lang, makikita na niya na dito safe to (from afar, they can see an establishment is safe),” Lopez said during the press conference.
“It can even attract, it could be a marketing strategy din ng mga (also for) companies na pang-attract din nitong customers dahil ina-assure nila na 'yung lugar nila ay safe (to attract customers because they are assured that the place is safe,” he added.
The Safety Seal certification program, according to Lopez, is a “best practice” program adopted from more advanced countries like Singapore, in a bid to boost consumer confidence in businesses.
The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases ordered its implementation in December last year.
The Safety Seal is valid for 6 months and can be revoked by the issuing agencies either on its own or through a valid complaint.
The issuing agencies are those that have jurisdiction over the nature of the business, such as the tourism department for hotels, labor department for manufacturing and construction sites, local government units (LGUs) for malls and wet markets, and the DILG or the Philippine National Police for city halls, barangay halls and police camps.
Issuance of a Safety Seal will require compliance with registration or accreditation requirements such as a mayor’s permit and licenses from relevant agencies.
Business establishments will also need to enforce minimum public health standards such as putting up of screening or triage areas and handwashing stations, observance of physical distancing, employing proper ventilation and disinfection protocol and the wearing of face masks, face shields, among other health protocols required by Philippine authorities.
USE OF STAYSAFE APP REQUIRED
A key feature of the “Safety Seal” certification program is requiring establishments to use the StaySafe.ph app for digital contact tracing.
StaySafe.ph app was developed by Parañaque-based Multisys Technologies Corporation composed of “expert programming engineers in the Philippines” that offer software engineering solutions, according to its website.
But as early as June last year, IT experts have raised privacy concerns over the use of the app, which its developer Multisys denied.
Former Information and Communications Technology Undersecretary Eliseo Rio also claimed he was “eased out” of his post after questioning the limitations of the government-backed contact tracing app and pointing out there was no technical vetting.
Rio said more contact tracing apps should have been tapped.
The IATF, in November last year, offically made it mandatory for all national government agencies and instrumentalities as well as local government units to use the StaySafe.ph app while promoting its use among private establishments, facilities or offices.
But 4 months later, government agencies have yet to fully use the app, prompting Malacañang to order its use within 10 days.
Año said on Friday they are still beta-testing the app, which was turned over as a donation by Multisys to the DILG only in April.
The joint memorandum circular, however, allows other apps to be used as long as these are integrated with StaySafe.ph.
Año also defended the app from claims only a few LGUs are using it.
He said there are around 1.6 million StaySafe users who generated QR codes, 19.2 million used it for QR scanning, while there are 3.2 million mobile app users.
What’s important, he said, is that information from the StaySafe.ph app is integrated with real-time data of test results from the DOH to ensure real-time contact tracing.
SAFETY SEAL VOLUNTARY, NOT A REQUIREMENT FOR BUSINESSES TO REOPEN
Lopez said participating in the “Safety Seal” certification program is voluntary and will not be used as a requirement for businesses to reopen.
Puyat compared the Safety Seal certification program to an “additional seal of good housekeeping.”
“It’s always good, there’s like a seal of good housekeeping. But although when you are DOT-accredited, it really already means you follow minimum health protocols and that you are, as long as you are DOT-accredited, you already follow all the guidelines. I guess this is more of, just an added seal of good housekeeping. It’s voluntary anyway and all DOT-accredited hotels can apply for this,” she said.
But Lopez clarified it is not an added layer to the bureacracy.
“More than just a signage, the presence of a safety seal in establishments means that they are committing to the implementation of health protocols. Otherwise, they could face penalties during an audit by the monitoring team of the various government agencies present here today or if customers file a complaint against them with regard to compliance,” he explained.
Año, for his part, said what’s more important is cultivating new habits under the new normal.
“More than the requirements or compliance is forming the habit as a way of life that we are now in a new normal and it would remind establishment owners and the public of adherence to the minimum health standard. It is the individual’s responsibility. Kapagka mayroong mag-violate (if there’s a violation), that’s when the issuing agencies will come in,” he said.