By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday urged the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and Employees Compensation Commission (ECC) to declare COVID-19 as an occupational disease so that workers can avail of insurance and other benefits that are demandable under the Employees Compensation Act and Employees Compensation Program.
In a statement, Hontiveros said that workplaces and mass transportation are the new “hot spot” of virus transmission,
“Dapat nang aksyunan ng gobyerno ang panawagan na gawing ‘occupational disease’ ang COVID-19 to ensure that the workers who will contract the disease while at work or in transit will be compensated under the national policy for employment injury benefits,” she said.
Hontiveros explained that once Covid-19 is listed by ECC as a work-related disease, workers will be entitled to medical benefits, compensation for lost income, and even funeral services in the event that the employee dies from the disease.
This measure, according to the Senator, is very crucial especially with the rising cases and spread of new variants of COVID-19 that led to the imposition of stricter quarantine protocols in the National Capital Region (NCR), Laguna, Cavite, Bulacan and Rizal.
“Pinabalik ang manggagawa sa trabaho pero kulang na kulang ang pag-aalagang ibinibigay ng gobyerno. Huwag natin silang tratuhing parang imortal. Hindi curfew o checkpoints ang kailangan kundi garantisadong proteksyon sakaling mahagip o tamaan sila ng virus,” Hontiveros said.
Hontiveros also stated that there may be no infection in the workplace but a worker may be infected in transit to and from his workplace. She believes that this should also be compensable.
“Hindi na dapat maging burden pa ng empleyado na patunayang nakuha niya ang virus sa kanyang trabaho. Dahil ang mismong pag-byahe ng mga manggagawa mula sa bahay papasok ng trabaho sakay ng mga pampublikong sasakyan ay work-related sacrifice na ginagawa na ng mga manggagawa,” she added.
The Senator furthered that the unified workplace and community disease surveillance database, a mandate she introduced in the 2021 budgets of DOLE, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and Department of Health (DOH), should help ECC establish that the COVID-19 was indeed acquired at the workplace.
Hontiveros, who filed the Balik-Trabahong Ligtas bill in the Senate, also said that had the government prioritized the safety of workers as they went back to their work places, the cost of reviving the economy would not be as heavy and fatal to both the workers and the industry.
“Hindi pa huli ang lahat para ituwid ang pagkakamali. Huwag lang puro lip service ang ‘excellent’ performance. Kung magpapatuloy ito, itinutulak lang ang mga manggagawa sa bingit ng walang-katapusang pangamba, sakripisyo at pagkagutom,” she concluded. (ai|mtvn)