DOLE urged: Include COVID-19 in gov't compensation program for employees

DOLE urged: Include COVID-19 in gov't compensation program for employees
Commuters of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) Line 1 observe social distancing by staying on designated markers on the station platforms and coaches in Manila on Sunday, March 14, 2021 as the Light Rail Transit Authority strictly enforces minimum health protocols.
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — With coronavirus cases still steadily on the incline, a lawmaker urged labor authorities Wednesday to classify the coronavirus disease 2019 as an occupational disease to allow workers to avail of insurance and other benefits that are demandable under the Employees Compensation Act.

In a statement, Sen. Risa Hontiveros said that in the event the Employees Compensation Commission declares the pathogen as a work-related disease, workers will be entitled to medical benefits, compensation for lost income, and even funeral services should any employee die from the virus.

The Palace on Tuesday said it did not need to provide cash aid or ayuda because people can still work amid the stricter measures currently in place.

"Workplaces and mass transportation are the new 'hot spots' of virus transmission," Hontiveros said in mixed Filipino and English.

"Government should be acting on calls to declare COVID-19 and 'occupational disease' to ensure that the workers who will contract the disease while at work or in transit will be compensated under the national policy for employment injury benefits."

Despite the imposition of a stricter general community quarantine in the "NCR+ bubble," public transportation and most workplaces remain open. 

Hontiveros added that the unified workplace and community disease surveillance database in the budget of the Department of Labor and Employment should help ECC establish that the COVID-19 was indeed acquired at the work place.

The senator in her statement also criticized the police-led lockdowns being implemented by the national government to "compel" Filipinos to comply with minimum health standards. 

"Workers have been sent back to work but the care provided by the government is sorely lacking. Let's not treat them like they're immortal. It's not curfews or checkpoints that are needed but guaranteed protection in case they get infected or hit by a virus," Hontiveros said.

"It should not be the burden of the employee to prove that he or she got the virus at work. Because the very fact that workers travel from home to work by public transport is a work-related sacrifice that workers are already making," she added.

To date, the country's coronavirus caseload stands at 677,653 after health authorities recorded 5,867 more cases Tuesday afternoon.

Earlier, the Healthcare Professionals Alliance against COVID-19 called on private firms and local government units to implement measures such as staggered working hours and coordinated contact tracing to decongest workplaces amid the rise in coronavirus cases. 

"It's not too late to correct our mistakes. Don't just give us lip service with claims of an 'excellent' performance. If it continues, it will just push workers to the brink of endless fear, sacrifice, and hunger," Hontiveros concluded.

— Franco Luna 

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