2k informal workers to be tapped as contact tracers

An additional 2,000 informal sector workers and those who have been displaced by the coronavirus pandemic will be hired through the government’s emergency employment program, a labor official said on Friday.

Lawyer Ma. Karina Trayvilla, director of the Bureau of Workers with Special Concerns (BWSC) of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), said the possible beneficiaries of the Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (TUPAD) Program has been increased to 14,000.

“As to the numbers of beneficiaries, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III initially said it is 12,000 for 30 days work. But it increased on Wednesday with an additional 2,000,” she said in a Laging Handa briefing.

Trayvilla, meanwhile, said some of the workers might be employed for a longer period based on the request of some local government units.

In other developments:

- Former Speaker and Taguig Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano has appealed to the leadership of the House of Representatives to hold a hearing on the proposed 10K Ayuda Bill so that available funds can be allocated to provide P10,000 in assistance to each family nationwide.

“Why don’t we hold a hearing now so we can look for the money? If we were able to find P500 billion for Bayanihan 1 in the 2020 budget, why wouldn’t we be able to find funds in the 2021 budget which is even bigger?” Cayetano told a radio interview.

- The Department of Health (DOH) on Friday stressed that “every centavo” of its P9-billion fund for the establishment of makeshift hospitals and isolation facilities for COVID-19 patients is “accounted for and are available for the public to access.”

This was after Senator Risa Hontiveros called on the DOH and the government’s inter-agency COVID-19 task force to publicize an expenditure report on the multibillion-peso fund as the country battles a new surge in infections.

- The Bureau of Immigration (BI) clarified that foreigners wanting to enter the country despite ongoing travel restrictions may seek exemption from the National Covid Task Force Against Covid-19 (NTF) for emergency or humanitarian reasons.

In a statement, BI Commissioner Jaime Morente said entry exemptions issued by other agencies before the travel ban was imposed cannot be used to enter the country during the heightened travel ban, which started last March 22 and ends on April 21.

“The requirement of LGUs is 90 days. With the budget for 14,000 workers, we will stretch it to 90 days, so we will be able to accommodate roughly 5,000 to have a longer duration of work,” the labor official said.

Trayvilla added DOLE hopes to start the hiring next week.

“For our contact tracers, hopefully, we will start hiring next week after finalizing the details among the DILG (Department of Local and Interior and Local Government) and MMDA (Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA),” she said.

As for the salary of contact tracers, she said it will be based on the minimum wage rate of the area where the workers will be employed.

“The salary that will be provided by the DOLE will be based on regional wage rate in NCR (National Capital Region) and to the bubble area which is Region 4-A (Calabarzon). In NCR, the minimum wage is PHP537 per day at one month that’s PHP16,110,” she added.

Trayvilla said interested applicants can submit their applications to the Public Employment Service Office (PESO) of the LGUs where they reside.

Meanwhile, the former Speaker said he is certain President Rodrigo Duterte will consider the proposed 10K Ayuda Bill if he would “get the right information” and be presented with the facts on the possible sources of funds.

“The problem is while I would say there are funds, the next person you interview will say there is no money. How can we really determine the truth if we don’t hold a hearing?” he said.

Cayetano cited the P207-billion worth of unobligated funds on top of the P400 billion declared in the government’s December 21, 2020 book balance, saying this can be reprogrammed like what the House did in Bayanihan 1.

“The administration listens. As I keep saying, even if we don’t hold a special session and while we are waiting for the session to begin in three weeks, we can start discussing and holding hearings on this proposal,” he said.

He also said “It is the nature of Congress to overact. It’s actually not overacting but oversight and to find alternatives. When I say oversight, I mean it checks on the administration is doing and ensures that the money is used the right way.”

At the same time, Cayetano appealed to the Executive Department to continue to be open to the proposals of lawmakers and local government units on how to address the crisis.

“Besides, we are at the grassroots. We see the sufferings of the people,” Cayetano said.

The Department of Health responded to calls to provide a breakdown of how funds worth P9B for the construction of health infrastructure under the Bayanihan I and II were spent.

It emphasized that the funds were utilized to construct temporary medical isolation and quarantine facilities, field hospitals, dormitories, and to expand government hospital capacities through the procurement of various medical equipment.

“Of the P 4.49 billion provided under Bayanihan I, P4.36 billion was utilized as of December 31, 2020 to procure medical equipment such as mechanical ventilators, biological safety cabinets, laminar flow hoods, and biomedical microcentrifuges among other medical equipment essential to ensuring that hospitals will be caring for COVID-19 patients,” said the DOH.

Meanwhile, of the P4.5 billion provided under Bayanihan II, P3.88 billion has been utilized as of December 31, 2020 for the construction of temporary medical isolation and quarantine facilities, field hospitals, dormitories for frontliners and expansion of government capacity all over the country.

On the other hand, of the remaining P617 million, P308 million has been utilized for the procurement of essential COVID-related equipment such as mechanical ventilators, portable x-ray machines, hemodialysis machines, high flow nasal cannula oxygen machines, and other equipment necessary for increasing laboratories’ testing capacities, they said.

The DOH assured that every centavo of the questioned funds, as well as all other public funds provided to the Department are all accounted for and are available for the public to access and examine upon request.

It said that the department will provide the full expenditure reports to the offices of the Senators requesting for the data.

The Department of Health emphasized that it is, and has always been, committed to upholding utmost integrity and transparency in fulfillment of its mandate to establish and maintain an accessible health system that provides quality health services to every Filipino.

The DOH further emphasized that now is not the time to be fragmented in the pandemic response and called for unity from the rest of the government and the public as the country faces an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases.

The government has been scrambling to set up modular tents and hospital extensions as the surge overwhelms healthcare facilities and workers.

Some COVID-19 cases have died outside of hospitals while waiting for a bed to become available, while doctors are forced to treat patients inside vehicles due to full capacity.

Morente pointed out that a resolution passed by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) in March authorizes only the NTF to approve requests for the entry of foreigners who are not exempted from the travel ban.

“The IATF resolution clearly states that only the NTF chair or his authorized representative may approve requests to allow the entry of foreigners on emergency, humanitarian and analogous cases,” the BI chief added.

Morente also stressed that aliens permitted to come here by the NTF should likewise possess valid visas at the time of their entry.

The BI chief issued the clarification following reports that several foreigners without NTF-issued entry exemptions were recently denied entry at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

Morente assured foreigners that the travel restriction is temporary, which is a result of the recent spike in Covid-19 cases.

“We hope that after this spike, the number of cases continue to downtrend, so we may be able to revive the international travel and tourism sector,” said Morente.

Aside from NTF-approved alien travelers, the IATF also exempted from the travel ban foreigners who are diplomats and members of international organizations and their dependents with valid 9(e) or 47(a)2 visas; those involved in medical repatriation with a valid visa as endorsed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA); seafarers holding 9(c) visas entering the country for crew change; and parents, spouses and children of Filipinos who are traveling with them.

Topics: Workers , Silvestre Bello IIIl , Bureau of Workers with Special Concerns , Department of Labor and Employment , COVID-19
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