Opposition Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan is pushing for several amendments to the Magna Carta for Public Health Workers to respond to the gaps in the already struggling health care system revealed by the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
“Malinaw na hindi sapat ang compensation para sa ating public health workers lalo na ngayong pandemya. Sila na nga ang nahaharap sa panganib, hindi pa mapunan ang kanilang mga pangangailangan upang, unang una, maging ligtas habang nasa frontlines at pangalawa, mabigyan ng katumbas na pasahod ang kanilang serbisyo (It is clear that the compensation being given to public health workers is not enough. They are in the frontlines against dangers but their requirements are lacking so that they would be safe and they should be given salaries equal to their services),” Pangilinan said in a statement on Wednesday, April 21.
“Front-line workers ang tawag sa kanila dahil sa giyera laban Covid, sila ang unang nakaumang sa panganib. Deserve nila ang buong suporta at benepisyo mula sa gobyerno, hindi sapat na tawagin silang bayani (They are the first ones deployed in the war against COVID-19. It is not enough that they are called heroes. They need to be given support and benefits),” he added.
Pangilinan filed Senate Bill (SB) 2142, which seeks to amend the Republic Act No. 7305 or the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers, by institutionalizing an increase in allowances and additional compensation of public health workers.
“The old Magna Carta for Public Health Workers is almost 30 years old. There are needs at the present that cannot be met anymore by the old law. And the pandemic has revealed that it is severely lacking in ensuring our public health care workers are adequately compensated in the face of a global health emergency. It has to be updated to respond to the call of the times,” Pangilinan said.
Under SB 2142, the night differential of public health workers will be increased from 10 percent to 20 percent of their regular wage for each hour of night-shift work. Overtime rate will also be increased from 10 percent to 20 percent.
Pangilinan said he also aimed to mandate that public health workers be paid a hazard allowance of P10,000 per month “or more, depending on the need and especially when there’s an emergency”. He said the base amount could be increased by the Secretary of Health.
He also proposed the provision of subsistence allowance of at least P300 per day, and an additional laundry allowance of P500, from the current P125, which will be reviewed periodically and to be increased as needed.
“Given the difficulty of compensating our front-liners during this pandemic, we want to make sure that hazard allowances are properly and swiftly distributed,” he said.
“Our front-liners deserve all these and more,” he added.
SB 2142 also sought to strengthen the anti-discrimination clause in the Magna Carta by further adding that no public health worker will be discriminated against with regard to sex, sexual orientation and gender identity, civil status, age, disability, religious or political beliefs and affiliations, or ethnicity.
A recent dialogue between public health workers and the Department of Health (DOH) revealed that there are still unpaid benefits for front-line health workers under the extended Bayanihan Law.
According to the Alliance of Health Workers (AHW), most hospitals paid these benefits only until December 19, 2020, while some local government hospitals haven’t received said benefits until now.
AHW is also calling for an increase in Special Risk Allowance of P15,000 per month and Active Hazard Duty Pay of P5,000 per month starting January, 2021 until the duration of the pandemic.
While the DOH has committed to follow up with the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) regarding the P16 billion requested for the delayed hazard pay of frontline health workers, Pangilinan said that the amendments to the Magna Carta would lessen, if not eliminate, current bureaucratic roadblocks.
“We have to do better now, and do even better next time. Kailangang mabilis kapag usapin ng buhay at kaligtasan (Speed is needed when life and safety are concerned). This is but one of the many necessary changes and updating that our health care system needs,” Pangilinan said.
On April 20, the Philippines reported 7,379 additional COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of infections closer to one million at 953,106.
Meanwhile, a total of 1,562,563 vaccines have so far been administered at 3,263 vaccination sites in 17 regions.