MANILA, Philippines — Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday called on the Department of Labor and Employment to classify COVID-19 as an occupational disease so that workers can avail of insurance and other benefits that are demandable under the Employees Compensation Act.
Hontiveros said that once COVID-19 is declared as a work-related disease, workers will be entitled to medical benefits, compensation for lost income, and even funeral services in the event that an employee succumbs to the disease.
“Workplaces and mass transportation are the new ‘hot spots’ of virus transmission, “ she said in a statement.
“Dapat nang aksyunan ng gobyerno ang panawagan na gawing ‘occupational disease’ ang COVID-19 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,” she added.
The government earlier placed the National Capital Region (NCR) and the four nearby provinces of Cavite, Rizal, Bulacan, and Laguna – collectively called NCR Plus – under a general community quarantine bubble to curb the rising COVID-19 cases.
Under the policy which will last until April 4, only essential travel is allowed but public transportation and most workplaces will remain open. Curfew hours and health and safety protocols will also be strictly implemented.
Hontiveros, however, criticized the enforcement of quarantine protocols, which, according to her, is “sorely lacking” in terms of support for workers.
“Pinabalik ang manggagawa sa trabaho pero kulang na kulang ang pag-aalagang ibinibigay ng gobyerno. Huwag natin silang tratuhing parang imortal. Hindi curfew o checkpoints ang kailangang kundi garantisadong proteksyon sakaling mahagip o tamaan sila ng virus,” she said.
Hontiveros also stated that there may be no infection in the workplace but a worker may be infected in transit to and from his workplace. She believes that this should also be compensable.
“Hindi na dapat maging burden pa ng empleyado na patunayang nakuha niya ang virus sa kanyang trabaho. Dahil ang mismong pag-byahe ng mga manggagawa mula sa bahay papasok ng trabaho sakay ng mga pampublikong sasakyan ay work-related sacrifice na ginagawa na ng mga manggagawa,” she added.
The Philippines has so far recorded a total of 677,653 COVID-19 infections after health authorities reported 5,867 additional cases. The latest figure brought the country’s total active cases to 86,200 on Tuesday.
“Hindi pa huli ang lahat para ituwid ang pagkakamali. Huwag lang puro lip service ang ‘excellent’ performance. Kung magpapatuloy ito, itinutulak lang ang mga manggagawa sa bingit ng walang-katapusang pangamba, sakripisyo at pagkagutom,” Hontiveros said.