At a time when almost everything is at a halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Filipino Audio-Visual industry is suffering from the suspension of work and cancellation of events as recommended by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease.
While regular and contractual employees get to continue their tasks via alternative work arrangements and still get paid, most of the Audio-Visual (AV) industry workers are not as fortunate to have employment during the national state of calamity. These include freelancers—from talents, to production staff, and technical crew members who get paid on a “per day” basis, “no work, no pay” scheme, and have no direct employer to work for.
As the national film agency and whose stakeholders include audio-visual workers, the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) created the Disaster/Emergency Assistance and Relief (DEAR) Program to assist its stakeholders during calamities and major disasters. This disaster-triggered funding mechanism of the FDCP came about as a response to the plight of freelance audio-visual workers who have been displaced by the Enhanced Community Quarantine and consequent State of Calamity caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The DEAR Program will be implemented through the FDCP National Registry, which maintains the database of the different sectors of the audio-visual industry including AV industry workers. FDCP supports and protects the interest of National Registry members by offering services that provide assistance in accessing social services, skills development workshops and programs, and basic legal assistance and work opportunities.
Under the DEAR Program, the targeted support program DEAR for Displaced Freelance AV Workers will provide financial assistance to disaster-affected freelance AV workers who suddenly lost work as a direct result of a major disaster. This income support program aims to complement the CAMP program of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) which covers private companies whose employees regardless of status (regular, contractual, project-based) can receive P5,000 in assistance.
The DEAR for Displaced Freelance AV Workers is for those who have become suddenly unemployed for at least seven (7) work days as a direct result of a major disaster and are not eligible for other government-instituted benefits.
The application for the DEAR program and the FDCP National Registry can happen concurrently. A flat rate cash financial assistance of P8,000 will be given to a displaced worker whose application has been approved. The one-time tax-free financial assistance aims to help beneficiaries with their expenses for personal needs, medical expenses, housing, rent, and other essential needs. FDCP emphasizes that DEAR benefits are not payable to individuals who are entitled to or qualified for regular unemployment compensation, waiting period credit, or benefits from the DOLE, Social Security System (SSS), their local government unit, their own employer, and similar agencies.
As a newly institutionalized program under the FDCP, the DEAR Program will not be limited to the COVID-19 situation but for future declared disasters as well. “The FDCP DEAR Program is not a one-off initiative. Though this was inspired by the COVID-19 crisis, we want to learn from this and make sure that the agency is better prepared in handling such cases in the future. As a permanent program of the FDCP, this disaster fund will be activated every time there is an emergency and a State of Calamity declared by the President,” said FDCP Chairperson and CEO Liza Diño-Seguerra.
Specifically in light of the COVID-19 situation, FDCP aims to be able to give financial aid to 2,000 audio-visual workers on its initial launch with funding coming from the Agency’s own limited funds. Because of this, priority will be given to low-income individuals like technical crews and production staff whose needs are more immediate. The FDCP guarantees that it will be working to get more funds and hopes to expand its support to as many as 20,000 freelance AV workers to cover the other sectors of the industry through the program.