– With Gerard Naval
PRESIDENT Duterte has approved the grant of hazard pay of up to P500 a day for government workers who physically report and render work during the Luzon-wide lockdown which took effect midnight of March 17 and will stay in effect until April 12.
The President, through Administrative Order No. 26 signed on March 23, said the grant of COVID-19 hazard pay will be retroactive to March 17.
Duterte, in approving the hazard pay, acknowledged that regular and contractual workers in government are exposed to health risks and hazards while working during the lockdown period.
“The President is making this presidential directive as his way of alleviating the present hazardous situation of these government workers who have placed their lives on the line in this battle against the coronavirus in the name of public service,” Chief Presidential Legal Counsel and concurrent presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said.
Panelo said government personnel who occupy regular, contractual or casual positions in national government agencies, including state universities and colleges and government-owned and -controlled corporations, and local government units, as determined by their respective Sanggunians, are entitled to the special hazard pay.
“For personnel who are already entitled to hazard pay, hazardous duty pay, hazard allowance or other similar benefits under existing laws, issuances, rules, and regulations, such as public health workers, public social workers, science and technology personnel, and military and uniformed personnel, they shall continue to be entitled to such benefits or the COVID-19 hazard pay, whichever is higher,” he added.
Funds for the hazard pay will be sourced from the Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses of national government agencies and SUCs, while government corporations may charge the amount to their operating budget.
Malacañang gave the Senate, the House of Representatives, the Judiciary, the Office of the Ombudsman, and other constitutional offices discretion to give hazard pay to their personnel in accordance with the presidential issuance.
Under the AO, the President also “strongly encouraged” private hospitals and other health facilities to grant a similar benefit to their health workers and staff exposed to the coronavirus.
The President on March 9 declared a nationwide public health emergency following confirmation of the country’s first local transmission of the novel coronavirus. On March 13, Duterte imposed a 30-day community quarantine in Metro Manila effective midnight of March 15. This was upgraded on March 16 to enhanced community quarantine and was expanded to cover the whole Luzon island.
Also on March 16, the President declared a nationwide state of calamity.
Cabinet Secretary and concurrent inter-agency task force spokesman Karlo Nograles said the hazard pay is limited to government workers.
Nograles, during the “Laging Handa” public briefing, said the Department of Labor and Employment may come up with guidelines that will allow and govern the grant of similar benefits to private sector employees, especially those in frontline services like physicians, nurses and other health workers.
The labor department said over 111,000 local and overseas workers have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 health menace.
Data from the DOLE Job Displacement Monitoring Report showed there are a total of 111,789 local and overseas workers temporary displaced by the implementation of stringent measures aimed at controlling the spread of the deadly virus.
Of the total, DOLE said 2,317 establishments covering 108,620 local workers have either implemented flexible work arrangements (FWAs) or temporary closure.
“Majority of the reporting establishments implemented FWAs (889) affecting 41,331 workers while establishments which resorted to temporary closure tallied 600 cases with 30,796 affected workers,” DOLE said.
Affected establishments are under manufacturing, and hotel, restaurants and tourism-related sectors.
The National Capital Region had the most number of affected workers with 46,213 followed by Central Luzon with 21,964 and Calabarzon with 19,486.
Other regions with significant numbers are Western Visayas (12,470), Central Visayas (4,610), Davao (1,989), Zamboanga Peninsula (1,033), Soccsksargen (825), and MIMAROPA (30).
Meanwhile, 3,169 overseas Filipino workers have been displaced due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and 1,088 have been repatriated.