Editorial: Protect workers in a pandemic

·3 min read

It’s not much of a safety net but it is better than nothing.

A P5,000 one-time cash aid will be given by the government to displaced private sector workers in areas placed under Alert Level 3, which, among many places in the country, include Cebu.

Due to rising cases of coronavirus disease (Covid-19), the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) raised alert levels from Jan. 21 to Jan. 31, 2022.

As set by the Department of Health (DOH), Alert Level 3 prohibits activities, such as face-to-face classes, contact sports, and gatherings involving members of multiple households, as well as the operation of establishments, such as amusement centers, as close contact will spread infections.

Other establishments are also restricted to a maximum of 30-percent indoor venue capacity for vaccinated persons and 50 percent maximum capacity for outdoors.

Alert Level 3 restrictions put on hold the livelihood of thousands. Last Jan. 18, Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) Secretary Silvestre Bello III announced that P1 billion will be allotted under the Covid-19 Adjustment Measures Program (Camp) to benefit 200,000 workers.

According to a Jan. 19 report of the Philippine News Agency (PNA), applications to avail of Camp assistance can be filed by either the employer or the employee of a company that underwent permanent closure and retrenchment or temporary closure as a result of the pandemic or the imposition of Alert Level 3 from Jan. 22 onwards.

The same PNA report lists the requirements companies and individuals should submit at https://reports.dole.gov.ph.

Previously, affected workers could only avail of government assistance through their former employer’s application in their behalf. Will the Camp procedure allow for more flexibility so individuals who lost work or are on furlough can take the initiative to seek the P5,00 cash aid?

Aside from needing to present a valid government-issued identification (ID) card, an individual needs a duly notarized proof of unemployment. Such proof can be a certificate of employment, notice of termination, notarized affidavit of termination employment or notice of temporary lay-off.

This document will be issued by the former employer. The Dole should mandate employers to apply for Camp aid for all their former employers, with employees given an option to file personally.

While many business owners are hit hard by pandemic restrictions, the worker absorbs much of the impact of lost earnings, particularly due to increasing costs from online or multimodal learning of his or her children or dependents; spikes in fuel cost, which drive up the prices of many basic commodities, particularly food; and health-related expenses, such as additional purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE), Covid-19 tests for the unvaccinated, and vitamins and supplements to boost the immune system.

Many residents in Cebu still struggle without power, water, and telecommunication signal after Odette’s destruction on Dec. 16, 2021.

Freelance digital workers, who need fast Internet service, have moved to the north of Cebu, Manila, or other places to continue working and earning. However, those with limited means avail of the co-working spaces that some local governments have made available for free to their residents.

In order not to turn these co-working spaces into superspreader areas, users must be limited. Only 50 persons can use the Mandaue co-working space.

Recently, the Cebu City Government’s restriction of its free charging stations outside City Hall to only the vaccinated was criticized by the Commission on Human Rights Central Visayas (CHR-CV) as discriminating against the unvaccinated, reported Ivan Rey R. Tan and Cherry Ann T. Lim on Jan. 21.

Instead of threatening to close the free charging stations, Mayor Michael Rama should consider ways for the unvaccinated to avail of this essential service without putting others at risk.

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