By Genalyn Kabiling, Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz, and Madelaine Miraflor
The heroic public health workers battling the coronavirus disease will receive a special risk allowance (SRA) based on a new order issued by President Duterte.
In Administrative Order No. 28, the President has authorized government agencies, government -owned and -controlled corporations (GOCCs) and local government units to grant a one-time COVID-19 SRA equivalent to a maximum of 25 percent of the monthly basic pay to the frontline public health workers.
The additional benefit for public health workers is among the temporary emergency measures President Duterte can implement under Republic Act No. 11469, the “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.”
“There is a need to recognize the heroic and invaluable contributions of public health workers throughout the country, who bravely and selfishly risk their lives and health by being at the forefront of the national effort to address the public health emergency,” the order read.
Under the latest AO, public health workers are medical, allied medical, and other necessary personnel assigned in hospitals and healthcare facilities and who are directly catering to or in contact with COVID-19 patients, persons under investigation, or persons under monitoring.
These are the health workers who have “great exposure to health risks and physical hardships in the line of duty, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to the President’s order.
The President has imposed certain conditions on the grant of the special risk allowance for public health workers. The conditions are the following:
– The public health workers provide critical and urgent services to respond to the public health urgency;
– The public health workers are either civilian employees occupying regular, contractual, casual or part-time positions; or workers engaged through contract of service or job order, including barangay health workers regardless of the nature of engagement, provided they are assigned to hospitals and other healthcare facilities;
– They physically report for work at their assigned work stations on prescribed official working hours; and,
– The grant of COVID-19 SRA shall be pro-rated based on the number of days the health workers report for work during the quarantine period.
Excluded from the grant of the SRA are those engaged without employer-employee relationship and funded from non-Personnel Services (PS) appropriation.
The funds for the special risk allowance for regular and contractual personnel in government agencies will be charged against their PS budget. The amount for COS/JO workers, on the other hand, will be sourced from Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses allotments without need for priority from Department of Budget and Management. In case the budget is insufficient, the concerned agency may request funds from the DBM.
For GOCCs, the amount for the special risk allowance will be taken from their operating budgets.
On the SRA for public health workers in local government units, this will be determined by their respective Sanggunian depending on the LGU’s financial capability.
The President has also directed the DBM to issue supplemental guidelines for the effective implementation of the SRA for public health workers.
The latest administrative order, signed by the President on April 6, will take effect after publication in the Official Gazette or a newspaper.
Public health workers to get special risk allowance; seniors, farmers to get cash aid
Cash aid for seniors
As this developed, the government said it will prioritize the distribution of financial aid to indigent senior citizens over those already receiving private pension, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said on Monday.
Nograles clarified that pensioners belonging to well-off families will be excluded from the government’s twomonth emergency subsidy program during the coronavirus quarantine period.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) recently started distributing cash subsidy to low-income families in line with the Bayanihan law signed by President Duterte.
“‘Yung senior citizens are excluded, siguro ito yung mga senior citizens na may natatanggap na pension. Kung may pension sila, then of course, I’m not talking about social pension, may tinatanggap na pension benefits noong sila pa nagtatrabaho o pension benefits from other sources, ang uunahin na senior citizens siyempre ‘yung mga indigent, indigent senior citizens, ‘yung senior citizens na tumatanggap na social pension mula sa DSWD (On reports senior citizens are excluded, maybe these are the senior citizens receiving pension. If they have pension, then of course, I’m not talking about social pension, but pension benefits when they were working or pension benefits from other sources, we will prioritize indigent senior citizens, those receiving social pension from the DSWD),” Nograles, spokesman of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, said during the virtual press conference Monday.
Support for farmers
Meanwhile, around 600,000 rice farmers will be receiving ₱5,000 assistance from the government this week to help augment their needs amid the enhanced community quarantine.
“Our rice farmers will receive it as a direct cash transfer that they can use to buy either farm inputs, food for their families, or anything they need,” said Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary William Dar.
Under the Financial Subsidy to Rice Farmers (FSRF) program, the ₱5,000 cash subsidy is part of the DA’s initiatives to assist small rice farmers who plant one hectare or less and located in 24 provinces not covered under the Rice Farmers Financial Assistance (RFFA) program.
The ₱3-billion FSRF is earmarked under the 2020 General Appropriations Act.
“The FSRF is another intervention to further support our farmers who are experiencing the effects of the quarantine measures due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Dar said.
The DA, through the Land Bank of the Philippines, will start distributing this week the ₱5,000 FSRF cash subsidy to 600,000 farmers.
An earlier batch of 600,000 farmers, tilling up to two hectares, continues to receive ₱5,000 each under the RFFA.
“We vow to continue helping our small rice farmers, by implementing not only the FSRF and RFFA, but also other major programs such as the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund, Sure Aid loan assistance program, and continuous palay-buying through the National Food Authority to boost farmers’ productivity and incomes,” Dar said.