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CONTINUE HEALTH WORKERS’ HAZARD PAY – ANGARA

Senator Sonny Angara reminded the Department of Health (DOH) that apart from the special risk allowance (SRA) to health workers, they are also entitled to hazard allowance as the frontliners in the country’s battle against COVID-19.

Citing Section 21 of Republic Act 7305 or the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers, Angara said that during this pandemic, government health frontliners are entitled to hazard allowance equivalent to at least twenty-five percent of the monthly basic salary of health workers receiving salary grade 19 and below, and five percent for health workers with salary grade 20 and above.

The veteran legislator said health workers, including the nurses should be provided with the hazard allowance already using the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers, which was authored by his father, the late former Senate President Edgardo Angara, as the legal basis.

The seasoned lawmaker brought up the issue of the hazard allowance after it was noted during the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearings on the utilization of funds by the DOH that the grant of SRA to health workers ended when the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or Bayanihan 2 expired last June 30.

“The grant of SRA to private and public health workers should continue even after the expiration of Bayanihan 2.”

The chair of the Committee on Finance emphasized that the grant of SRA to private and public health workers should continue even after the expiration of Bayanihan 2 for as long as the state of national emergency as declared by President Duterte is in place.

“Sinasabi nila na ang SRA nag expire daw with Bayanihan 2, which we don’t agree with. May liberal approach tayo dito and we have spoken to some legal personalities and nakakalungkot na kung sino pa ang naatasan magbantay at magalaga dito sa ating health workers, siya pa ang hindi pabor doon sa pagbigay,” the senator said.

Many health workers are up in arms over the delays in the downloading of their benefits, including the SRA since last year.

Part of the delay in the payment of SRA stems from the interpretation of Bayanihan 2’s provision on this benefit, which states that this benefit is provided to “all public and private health workers directly catering to or in contact with COVID-19 patients”.

This provision has been interpreted to cover only those who are assigned to COVID-19 wards or patients who have COVID-19.

During the Blue Ribbon Committee hearing, Health Secretary Francisco Duque said that a law will be needed to allow the grant of SRA to all health workers “owing to the high transmissibility of the Delta variant”.

“The DOH should take a more liberal interpretation on the grant of SRA.”

Both Blue Ribbon Committee chair Senator Dick Gordon and Angara have expressed willingness to file the bill being sought by the DOH but maintained that the agency should take a more liberal interpretation on the grant of SRA considering the critical situation being faced by our health workers today.

“We will fast track the bill that Sen. Gordon wants to file and I will co-author that with him because it is of utmost importance. I thank Sen. Gordon for his dynamism and urgency in wanting to file that bill,” Angara concluded.

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