The workers group Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) on Saturday called on the government to give a minimum of 25 percent hazard pay to journalists composed of reporters, cameramen, assistant cameramen, photographers, researchers and drivers covering the Taal eruption and to workers in hotels and restaurants in Tagaytay City.
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In a statement, TUCP President Raymond Mendoza said “hazard is a dangerous phenomenon, substance, or human activity or condition that may cause loss of life, injury or other health impacts, property damage, loss of sources of livelihood and services, social and economic disruption, or environmental damage.”
In the House, Deputy Speaker Michael Romero of 1-Pacman party list urged the administration to start drafting the plans for the recovery of the people and areas affected by the Taal eruption.
The eruption has rendered some areas no longer economically viable for cultivation and fishing at least in the meantime,
Thus the government, particularly the Department of Agriculture, should determine the livelihood that may be provided to the affected farmers and fishermen, he said.
“I suggest to the advisers of President Duterte the crafting of an Inter-Agency Taal Rehabilitation, Recovery and Livelihood Program and the matching accountable task force to run it,” Romero said.
Romero added: “While we do not have yet a Department of Disaster Resilience, this will do for now. Housing, jobs, and livelihood should be the key result areas of the program and its implementing task group.”
At the same time, he pushed for the appointment of Human Settlements Secretary Eduardo del Rosario as the chairman of the task group that would oversee the Taal rehabilitation efforts.
He added the future Department of Disaster Resilience Secretary can serve as the co-chairman.
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The vice chairmanship post should be with the Department of Finance or Department of Budget and Management to make sure the task group is adequately funded, Romero said.
“We should not let this Taal Volcano eruption be the current equivalent of the disastrous and scandalous Yolanda relief, rehab, and recovery,” Romero added.
In the Senate, Sen. Sonny Angara called on the Department of Labor and Employment to utilize the P120 million under its budget for the assistance to workers displaced by the Taal Volcano eruption..
As chairman of the Committee on Finance that went over the 2020 General Appropriations Act, Angara pointed out DOLE has funds it can tap to provide assistance to the displaced workers, particularly those who reside in the areas within the vicinity of Taal in Cavite and Batangas.
There are now over 40,000 evacuees from Cavite and Batangas who were forced to flee their homes because of the eruption.
Apart from the lack of food, clothing and shelter, many of the evacuees also have to cope with their loss of employment because of the disaster.
“The impact of the eruption of Taal Volcano is wide-ranging. Most of the affected families have lost everything, including their livelihood and it is the obligation of the government to provide them with support during times like these,” Angara said.
“We must do everything to get these communities back on their feet again at the soonest possible time. The entire nation must be behind all those affected by the eruption,” Angara added.
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Under the 2020 General Appropriations Act, the DOLE has P112.62 million for its Adjustment Measures Program and P6.8 million for its Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers or TUPAD.
TUPAD is a community-based package of assistance that provides emergency employment for displaced workers, underemployed and seasonal workers, for a minimum period of 10 days, but not to exceed a maximum of 30 days, depending on the nature of work to be performed.
Under TUPAD, beneficiaries will be provided with basic orientation on safety and health, personal protective equipment, and enrolment in group micro-insurance.
Once the emergency employment program is completed, the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority or its accredited training institutions will be tapped to conduct the skills training for the TUPAD beneficiaries under its Training for Work Scholarship Program.
As for the DOLE’s Adjustment Measures Program, a comprehensive package of assistance will be provided to the workers affected by the eruption.
The program aims to enhance the “employability and competitiveness” of the displaced workers.
For permanent or regular employees, they are entitled to receive financial relief support equivalent to 50 percent of the prevailing minimum wage in the region for a maximum period of six months.
In the case of non-permanent or casual employees, the financial support will be equivalent to 25 percent of the prevailing minimum wage in the region for a maximum period of three months.
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“We urge the DOLE to immediately issue the guidelines for the programs and to reach out to the individuals in the affected areas. For the employers of the affected individuals, we appeal for their understanding. It will give them some peace of mind to know that they will have their old jobs waiting for them once they are able to resume their normal lives,” Angara said.
Also in the Senate, Sen. Ralph Recto on Saturday said he would file a bill seeking the creation of a commission that would ensure the rehabilitation and recovery of Taal victims.
In a radio interview, Recto, whose wife is Batangas Rep. Vilma Santos, said the bill would be based on the Mount Pinatubo Commission.
At the TUCP camp, Mendoza said hazard pay was a cash compensation to employees on top of their basic salary for rendering duty work under extraordinary conditions and circumstances that result in death, serious injuries, sickness and disease, and handicap or debility.”
“All employees including rank-and-file, supervisors and managers working in all business establishments such as hotels, restaurants, casinos, and spas among others which are located within the 14-kilometer danger zone particularly Tagaytay City have the right and are entitled to a minimum 25 percent hazard pay of the their daily basic pay,” Mendoza said..
“Reporters, cameramen, assistant cameramen, cab drivers, and photographers who are covering the Taal volcano eruption and are working in the declared danger zone also have the same right and are similarly entitled to hazard pay whether they are under talent contract, or permanent, regular, contracual, seasonal, directly or agency-hired, freelance or independently contracted,” Mendoza said.
Mendoza said working under the extraordinary dangerous situations caused and the exposure to risk to the elements brought by the Taal volcano phreatic eruption Sunday last week are sufficient conditions for these workers to provided with hazardous duty pay.
TUCP spokesperson Alan Tanjusay clarified that although there is no prevailing law, policy, or department orders in the country that regulates employers from giving their employees with hazard pay, it is imperative upon business owners and employers’ management prerogative to give hazard pay to their employees considering the extraordinary cricumstance in performing their duties and responsibilities.
“On other hand, employees can directly approach and request their employers to provide them with hazard pay,” said Tanjusay.
In public sector, police, military, firemen, rescuers, including volcanologists and personnel from the Philippine Institute for Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) are automatically entitled to hazard pay in view of Civil Service Commission regulation and subsequent agency memorandum giving government personnel hazard pay ranging from 5 percent to 27 perent of their basic pay after rendering 50 percent of the total working hours of the month.
Meanwhile, Sen. Christopher Go said that President Rodrigo Duterte had instructed concerned government agencies to fully support the recovery efforts of local government units (LGUs) affected by the Taal volcanic eruption.
As this developed, Sen. Francis Pangilinan said the government must issue more regular Taal Volcano updates over the twice-a-day situationer that the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology was releasing.
“Considering that Phivolcs raised alert level 2 to 4 in just two hours last Sunday, we issue an urgent appeal to government to issue bulletins every 1 or two hours to prevent panic and keep the public informed and more aware,” said Pangilinan.
Phivolcs said nearly 700 volcanic earthquakes have been recorded since Taal emitted plumes of steam and ash six days ago on January 12, indicating continuous magmatic intrusion beneath the volcano.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) initially reported that about half a million people are within the radius of the 14-kilometer danger zone.
Citing the possible health hazards brought by the ash fall in affected areas, the senator also called on the DOH to prioritize the cleaning of health centers and evacuation centers to ensure the safety of residents and evacuees..
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said he had informed the Regional Director of DOH CALABARZON to coordinate with the LGUs concerned as regards to cleaning and disinfecting of Barangay Health Stations and Rural Health Units in the area.
DOH will be providing the needed technical and logistical assistance to health stations and health units to ensure that affected Filipinos will have unhampered access to primary health care and assistance.
Meanwhile, Go mentioned that some private individuals had committed to donate horses as a form of livelihood assistance, especially for residents in Tagaytay City who lost horses they use to earn a living due to the effects of the eruption.
In view of the consecutive natural disasters which have ravaged the country the past few months, Go also said that it was high time the government established evacuation centers in all cities, provinces, and municipalities which will cater to the basic needs of the victims.
Go filed recently a bill providing for mandatory evacuation centers in all cities, provinces and municipalities nationwide.
Senate Bill (SB) No. 1228 or “An Act Establishing a Mandatory Evacuation Center in all Cities, Provinces and Municipalities, Appropriating Funds Therefor,” provides for the establishment of an evacuation center in every city, province and municipality throughout the country.
The bill also provides for the minimum requirements for every evacuation center, such as its location, amenities and accessibility, operation and management, among others.