Villanueva lauds classification of COVID-19 as compensable work-related disease

Senator Joel Villanueva on Monday, May 3, hailed as a "good news" the inclusion of COVID-19 in the list of diseases compensable by the Employees' Compensation Commission (ECC).

Workers wearing face masks ride atop a truck in Iloilo City. (Tara Yap/MANILA BULLETIN)

The chairman of the Senate labor committee said the inclusion would further provide relief to workers who contract the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and would convince virus-stricken workers to stay home since there would be support coming from the government.

“Kadalasan kasi, walang choice po at ating mga manggagawa (Because most of the time, our workers are left with no choice. It is either death by COVID-19 or death by hunger," Villanueva said in his statement.

"At pag nagkasakit ka ng dahil sa COVID, madalas pong naiiwan mag-isa ang may sakit. Wala nang tulong na maaasahan. Ngayon po, makakatakbo ang ating mga manggagawa sa ECC para sa saklolo (And when they contract COVID-19, they are left alone. Now, our workers can seek the help of ECC),” he added.

Villanueva urged the ECC and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to ensure that the program is implemented smoothly and ensure its viability "since the pandemic won’t be over at least in the short term."

“Much of the success of this program hinges on its efficient implementation," he pointed out.

“Umaasa po tayo na hindi mauuwi sa mahabang pila o matagal na antayan ang ating manggagawa na tatakbo sa ECC para idulog ang kanilang sitwasyon ((We are hoping that this would not end in long lines or waiting hours). This can have dire, or even fatal, consequences, dahil ang nakasalalay dito ay ang pangtustos sa gamot at iba pang pangangailangan ng mga manggagawang magkakasakit sa COVID-19,” he further said.

The ECC, last week, classified COVID-19 as an occupational and work-related disease, allowing workers who get sick to claim financial assistance from the commission.

Under its Board resolution No. 21-04-14, “COVID-19 clinically diagnosed and consistent with the history, and signs and symptoms of COVID-19 supported by diagnostic proof to include reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction test is compensable in any of the following conditions:

a. There must be a direct connection between the offending agent or event and the worker based on epidemiological criteria and occupational risk (e.g. healthcare workers, screening and contact tracing teams, etc.);

b. The tasks assigned to the worker would require frequent face-to-face and close proximity interaction with the public or with confirmed cases for healthcare workers;

c. Transmission occurred in the workplace; and

d. Transmission occurred while commuting to and from work."

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said COVID-19-stricken workers said workers might receive P30,000 as compensation under the ECC program. The amount has been recommended to President Duterte for his approval.