Senator Joel Villanueva on Wednesday, August 4, proposed to the government to use the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) assistance program for displaced workers to augment the ranks of contact tracers amid the threat of the Delta coronavirus variant.
Villanueva said beneficiaries of the “Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged o Displaced Workers” or TUPAD program may be deployed as part of what he called a “Delta Force”, which will aid in tracing the close contacts and travel histories of people found positive for COVID-19.
“’Yong TUPAD program, pwede pong gamitin sa pagtukoy ng mga nakasalamuha ng mga taong dinapuan ng virus, saan sila nanggaling, at saan sila maari pang nakahawa (The TUPAD program can be used to identify the contact of person afflicted with the virus, where they went, and where they might have infected others),” said Villanueva, who chairs the Senate Committee on Labor.
“Lalo na ngayong may Delta variant na po sa bansa at kailangan ng mala-Delta Force na soldier-frontliner tulad ng mga contact tracers (Especially with the emergence of the Delta variant in the country and we need solder-like contact tracers in a ‘Delta Force’),” he added “We need all the help we can get to stop a surge from overrunning our frontlines,” he further pointed out.
Villanueva, who had defended the DOLE’s 2021 budget as one of the Senate finance committee’s vice chairpersons, noted that TUPAD was appropriated with a fund of P19 billion, together with the Government Internship Program.
The program extends emergency employment for displaced workers, underemployed and seasonal workers in a community.
They will be paid short-term for work in social, economic, infrastructure and environment projects in their own communities.
“Siniguro po nating na maitaas ito mulas sa P6 bilyon noong 2020 sa halos tatlong beses ang taas sa P19 bilyon (We made sure to have the budget raised to almost thrice its P6 billion in 2020 to P19 billion). I believe this fund can be tapped to hire more contact tracers,” Villanueva said.
“Pasok na pasok po ‘yan sa paggamit ng pondong iyan. Malalabanan na natin ang COVID-19, makakatulong pa po tayo sa mga nangangailangan ng trabaho (That fund can be used for contact tracing. We can fight COVID-19, and at the same, we can help those who needed jobs),” he added.
The government has imposed enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in some cities in the Philippines following the recent surge in COVID-19 cases due to the Delta variant. The ECQ will take effect in Metro Manila from August 6 to August 20.