By Charissa Luci-Atienza
The House Committee on Ways and Means has unanimously passed a substitute bill seeking to provide equal opportunity for employment to persons with disabilities (PWDs) and grant incentives to private firms that employ them both as apprentices and regular employees.
The House panel, chaired by Nueva Ecija Rep. Estrellita Suansing, agreed to amend Section 5 of Republic Act 7277, otherwise known as the “Magna Carta for Persons with Disability” to ensure that no PWD shall be denied access to opportunities for suitable employment.
At least two percent of all positions in government agencies, offices, or corporations shall be filled up with qualified PWDs, according to the substitute bill.
Under the bill, private corporations are mandated to reserve at least one percent of all positions for PWDs and those corporations with more than 1,000 employees are mandated to reserve at least two percent of all positions for PWDs.
“A qualified employee with disability shall be subject to the same terms and conditions of employment and share the same compensation, privileges, benefits, fringe benefits, incentives or allowances as a qualified able-bodied person,” it said.
The Suansing panel also approved the provision amending Section 8 of RA 7277 to grant incentives to employers of PWDs.
“To encourage the active participation of the private sector in promoting the rights of PWDs and ensure gainful employment for qualified PWDs, adequate incentives shall be provided to private entities which employ PWDs,” the substitute bill proposed.
The bill provides that private entities that employ PWDs who meet the required skills or qualifications, as apprentices or learners, shall be entitled to an additional deduction from their gross income equivalent to 25 percent of the total amount paid as salaries and wages to PWDs.
Private firms that employ PWDs as regular employees shall be entitled to an additional deduction from their gross income equivalent to 50 percent of the total amount paid as salaries and wages to PWDs.
The bill tasks the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), through its level of compliance system, to issue a certificate of compliance to private entities which employed PWDs.
If there is no qualified PWD applicant after 30 days from the mandatory publication either through print, broadcast, internet or social media by the employer of its job vacancy reserved for PWDs, the employer may hire a non-PWD applicant for the said positions reserved for PWDs in private entities by securing a prior approval from the LGU concerned, the measure said.
Under the bill, PWDs shall also be entitled to the following:
• A P500 monthly stipend to augment the daily subsistence, medical and other needs of marginalized PWDs, subject to the review by the Joint Congressional Committees on Appropriations and Social Services, in consultation with the National Council on Disability Affairs (NCDA) and other concerned agencies;
• Provision of free assistive technology services, including the evaluation of the needs and the functional capacity of PWDs in the customary environment or place of employment, as well as selecting, designing, fitting, customizing, adapting, applying, maintaining, repairing, or replacing assistive technology device; training or technical assistance for PWDs; and other forms of assistance such as sign language interpreting and job coaching;
• Provision of free assistive devices and technologies including technical aids, prosthetic and orthotic devices or appliances, particularly for personal use of PWDs that will restore their social functioning and participation in economic activities and community affairs, and such other devices and technologies appropriate to other disabilities;
• Exemption from passport processing fees, travel taxes, terminal fees, other fees and charges levied in airports, ports, or other terminals by the government, any of its agencies or instrumentalities, or by government-owned or controlled corporations.
The bill tasks the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), in coordination with NCDA and in consultation with the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Health (DOH), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of Finance (DOF) and the Civil Service Commission (CSC) to promulgate the implementing rules and regulations of the proposed Act.