By Ben Rosario
With many of them rejected as recipients of the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) benefits, the more than 20 million workers in the informal economy will no longer be left out from the assistance to be given by the government in the future.
The House Committee on Labor and Employment chaired by 1Pacman Party-list Rep. Eric Pineda is making this possible as it prioritized seven legislative measures providing for a Magna Carta for Workers in the informal economy.
Deputy Speaker and Laguna Rep. Dan Fernandez said passage of the measures is vital as more than 20 million Filipinos belonging to the said sector continue to be denied their “fair share” of protection and benefits from government despite their “massive contribution” to the economic well-being of the country.
In a virtual committee hearing on Monday, Pineda referred the consolidation of the seven bills to the Sub-committee on Workers of Special Concerns chaired by Eastern Samar Rep. Maria Fe Abunda.
Among the bills to be considered are those filed by Deputy Speakers Evelina Escudero and Fernandez, and Reps. Alfred Vargas (PDP-Laban, Quezon City) and Michael Edgar Aglipay (DIWA Partylist).
Pineda lamented that most of the workers belonging to the so-called informal economy were disqualified as recipients of the cash assistance for Filipinos affected by the ECQ that the government granted under the SAP.
Common in the bills filed is the inclusion of the said sector in government development programs, access to social security and medical health insurance coverage, security of tenure and work protection, and other programs offered by the government.
Abunda noted that while the bills are aimed at ensuring the welfare and protection of workers in the informal economy, there remains no clear set rules on how this sector can contribute by paying taxes to government.
“How will government effectively collect taxes? Informal sectors do not report or declare their earnings,” she said.
Fernandez said this concern will be addressed as soon as the measure becomes a law and Filipinos belonging to the said sector are identified.
Karen Trayvilla, director of the Bureau of Workers with Special Concerns, said they strongly support the passage of the measure, stressing that this will “reduce the vulnerabilities of workers in the informal economy.”
“We support the objectives and intention of the bills but we call for a coherent articulation of our policies, especially ILO Recommendation 204,” she said.
The Employers Confederation of the Philippines, represented in the hearing by lawyer Antonio Abad, noted that certain provisions of the bills could result in the duplication of functions of various government agencies such as the Department of Social Welfare and Development and Department of Trade and Industry.
Abad also proposed the inclusion as members of the informal economy freelancers like writers, artists, and sculptors, as well as those in the entertainment sector like actors, singers, and dancers.