By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
The COVID-19 pandemic proved to be a difficult time for the country’s workers who are either displaced or forced to risk their lives for their families and countrymen, senators said on Friday, May 1.
On Labor Day, members of the Upper Chamber paid tribute to Filipino frontliners and other workers amid the new coronavirus outbreak.
“Nagpupugay po tayo sa ating mga frontline workers, sa mga tumatalima sa panawagang tigil-bahay, kahit na po nangangahulugan ito ng kasalatan sa pagkain o pagbabago sa ating mga nakasanayan (We honor our frontline workers and those who heed the call to stay at home, because it meant compromising their sustenance, or their routines),” Sen. Joel Villanueva, chair of the Senate committee on labor, said in a statement
“Makasaysayan po ang Araw ng Paggawa sa panahon ng COVID-19 pandemic dahil hindi po biro ang ating laban na kinakaharap. Hindi matatawaran ang sakripisyo ng bawat isa sa atin. Ipinapanalangin po natin ang mga naglaan ng kanilang buhay sa ngalan ng kanilang tungkulin sa loob man ng ospital o sa daan (This year’s Labor Day amid the COVID-19 pandemic is historic because the challenges we face are no joke. The sacrifices of our people cannot be measured. We pray for those who dedicated their lives in performing their duties, either in the hospitals or in roads),” he added.
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian also cited the contribution of Filipino workers to the local economy.
“Big or small, these workers have been instrumental in laying and fortifying the foundation of our economy for decades. They truly are the backbone of a bright future for the country,” Gatchalian said.
“However, these are tough times for each and every Filipino worker as the COVID-19 pandemic affects our very own livelihood. Many lost their jobs and some were left with no assurance if they can get their jobs back,” he pointed out.
“Likewise, we share the grief of the families of our fallen doctors and medical personnel who earnestly did their job until the end,” he added.
Senator Nancy Binay, for her part, thanked the frontliners “for their unwavering service and sacrifice.”
“We say thank you and salute all of you,” she said.
As the country implements strict quarantine measures to curb the COVID-19 spread, the lawmakers appealed anew for continued support and assistance to workers, especially those in the informal sector.
They called on the Department of Labor and Employment to sustain, improve and speed up its programs for affected workers, particularly the COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP), Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (TUPAD), and Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong (AKAP) for displaced overseas workers.
Villanueva said sectors that will be allowed to operate following the easing of the enhanced community quarantine should be required to comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Act and physical distancing measure to spare their employees from further health risks.
He also encouraged the adoption of work-from-home arrangements as allowed under the Telecommuting Law.
Senator Leila de Lima also called on the government to “provide clear and concrete plans to help our workers get back on their feet” once the health crisis is resolved.
“Don’t start with proposals that will not carry through and will just end up giving our workers false hopes,” she said in her dispatch.
Binay said the Senate will be ready to help the displaced Filipino workers by passing measures that will supplement government’s existing funds, and help open windows for jobs and investments.
“The Philippines will not have a strong and growing economy without a strong, growing working class. With the economic and health crisis we are facing today, let’s ensure that no one will be left behind,” Gatchalian said.#