The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is tightening its belt in efforts to extend the tenure of its hired contact tracers amid the current threat posed by the highly-contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III recently bared that they would be extending the tenure of some 5,700 contact tracers for a maximum of two months, at a cost of P200 million to the agency.
“Malaking…kaltas sa ating budget pero syempre, napakahalaga ng trabaho ng mga contact tracers at kailangang kailangan talaga dito sa Metro Manila (This will be a huge reduction to our budget but then again, contact tracers are very much needed here in Metro Manila),” he said in a virtual press briefing.
The contact tracers were hired in late April under DOLE’s Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (TUPAD) program.
Bello said the Metro Manila mayors, through Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Benhur Abalos requested from DOLE over the weekend that the original three-month tenure of the contact tracers be extended for another three months.
He said he subsequently conferred with the director in charge of the TUPAD program and DOLE’s our finance officer. “Sabi nila medyo alanganin ‘yung pondo natin pero kung kailangang pilitin, [pi]pilitin (They said that it would be difficult to do given our budget, but if it needs to be done, we will do it).”
“Kako, ‘Aba, kailangan. Mismong si Chairman Benhur Abalos ang humiling. Mahirap tanggihan ‘yan kako. Lalung-lalo na at kailangan ng ating local executive dito sa NCR [National Capital Region] dahil alam mo naman, nakapasok nanaman yung lintik na Delta [variant] na ‘yan’ (I said, ‘Yes, we need to do it. Chairman Benhur Abalos himself requested for it. It’ll be hard to reject him. Especially since NCR’s local executives need it amid the entry of this accursed Delta variant’),” he said.
“So we really have to provide assistance to our local executives…sabi ko, ‘Chairman, pwede pa ako mag-extend pero instead of three months, pipilitin kong hanggang two months na lang.’ At tinanggap naman ni Chairman Abalos yun (I said, ‘Chairman, I can still extend it but instead of three months, I’ll do my best to give you two months.’ And Chairman Abalos accepted it),” Bello said.
The salary for each contact tracer is P16,000 a month. DOLE had previously allocated P296 million for the salaries of the workers for the previous three months.