Angara bats for free COVID test for jobseekers as ‘employment stimulus’

Angara bats for free COVID test for jobseekers as ‘employment stimulus’

By Ernie Reyes

MANILA — ‘If they can’t feed hungry mouths, how can they pay for nasal swabs ?’

This, Sen. Sonny Angara said, is the predicament facing job seekers who
are having a hard time complying with the requirement of potential
employers that they include a negative COVID test result in the
credentials they submit.

“For jobless breadwinners, it is choosing between two sacks of rice or
a RT-PCR swab,” Angara said, referring to the P3,500 – P5,000 cost of
the test that detects the presence of the coronavirus in the body.

“It is a big start-up cost for people who are at the end of their
ropes,” Angara said.

He said the price of a RT-PCR test, to include the cost of going to
the testing site is equivalent to half-month pay of a minimum wage
earner.

Although job applications are now accepted online, the hiring process
often involves face-to-face interviews or actual demonstration of
trade skills, “which requires a negative RT-PCR test as gate pass,”
Angara said.

“Kung luluwas ka sa isang lungsod, minsan kailangan yang negative
result as gate pass. Kahit na sabihin na online ang application,
kadalasan may face-to-face interview na kasunod, o kaya actual
demonstration ng skills,” he said.

Angara said he has seen data pointing to a “Covid test wall,” which
discourages the unemployed to look for jobs.

Even though the government does not require COVID-19 testing as a job
application requirement, jobseekers have complained that some
employers have made it a must for pre-employment.

This has prompted Angara to file a bill creating a free COVID-19
testing for all jobseekers, calling it “a needed employment stimulus.”

Under his bill, the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation
(PhilHealth) will cover the cost of the testing.

The DOH, in full cooperation with the Department of Interior and Local
Government, Department of Labor and Employment, and the Department of
Trade and Industry will ensure COVID testing is free and accessible
for all job seekers. This benefit will run during the course of the
pandemic national emergency.

He explained that the following individuals can avail themselves of
the free test :

• A young person who is finding employment for the first time;

• An unemployed person who is actively seeking employment; and

• A displaced worker whose employment was permanently terminated
for authorized reasons or other causes arising from the COVID-19
pandemic.

Existing COVID-19 testing centers would reserve slots for jobseekers
who qualify for free tests under the bill, the cost of which will be
refunded by PhilHealth, based on a prescribed price.

He said this will benefit fresh out of college job seekers, “which is
the demographic struggling to find jobs in a tight labor market.”

Angara said to ease unemployment “workers need help to access the
labor market with ease, and on the part of employers, potential
recruits who can readily submit credentials.”

So that there will be no more question about the policy of the
government, Angara’s bill states that the COVID-19 test shall not be
considered as an additional mandatory requirement for employment.

Angara is a co-author of the First Time Job Seekers Assistance Act,
which exempts new jobseekers from paying fees on a slew of
government-issued documents.

Under Republic Act 11261, NBI clearance, barangay clearance, medical
certificate from public hospitals, birth and marriage certificates,
tax identification number, community tax certificate, multi-purpose ID
card, are among the documents that can be issued for free. (AI/MTVN)

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