Local health workers serving in the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic have yet to receive their “hazard pay” as promised by the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte three months ago.
A staffer at a government hospital in Puerto Princesa City, who sought anonymity, said they are beginning to lose hope on receiving the promised incentive.
“Hindi na kami umaasa. Ina-update ko mga health worker namin kung meron na sila pero until now wala pa din,” one staffer said.
Lawyer Arnel Pedrosa, the city administrator, in a text message to Palawan News on Friday, clarified however that on the part of the city government, the hazard pay are already being processed.
“Inuna pa mga medical frontliners susunod po sila (other government workers),” Pedrosa said.
Duterte, on Administrative Order No. 26 issued on March 23, granted COVID-19 hazard pays, or “amount not exceeding P500 per day per person” to government personnel “who physically report for work” during the imposition of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) period.
The AO encompassed government employees and workers, including those who were under the contract of service (COS) or job order (JO) “whose services are urgently necessary”.
The ECQ in Puerto Princesa ran from March 17 to April 30, or a period of 45 days.
The City Council, in a special session held late March, has approved a resolution adopting AO 26-2020, granting COVID-19 hazard pay to personnel services and COS workers in City Health Office (CHO), City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO), Oplan Linis, Solid Waste Management Office (SWMO), City Disaster Risk and Reduction Management Office (CDRRMO), and other employees who continued to report to work at their respective offices.
The fund for the hazard pay was supposed to be drawn from the Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE) for the contract of services and personnel service of the regular employees.
A barangay worker, who requested to not be named, said that certain officials from the city government have questioned their performance during the lockdowns which may have been detrimental in receiving their hazard pay.
“Kami nga na mandatory mag-checkpoint sa mga nasasakupang barangay, wala din hazard [pay]. Sabi [sa] city government hindi daw sila naniwala na nag-effort ngayong pandemic,” a barangay worker told Palawan News in confidence.
The Alliance of Health Workers (AHW), in a statement issued on June 5, said the hazard pay provided by the administrative order is “deceptive” citing that it is not an added benefit to health workers who regularly receive the same benefit.
The group noted a portion of the order in Section 1 which states that a “personnel who are already entitled to a hazard pay, hazardous duty pay, hazard allowance or other similar benefits under existing laws, issuances, rules, and regulations, such as public health workers, public social workers, science and technology personnel and military and uniformed personnel, shall continue to be entitled to such benefits or the COVID-19 hazard pay, whichever is higher”.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, in an earlier press briefing, meanwhile defended the decision of the government to discontinue the grant of the hazard pay to the government workers who physically report to work during the imposition of the more relaxed general community quarantine (GCQ), saying that the threat of the coronavirus has become “manageable”.
Roque asked the government workers for understanding especially as the government needed funds to contain the further spread of the virus.
Palawan News has sought comment from the City Budget Office (CBO) and the City Health Office (CHO) on the issue raised by the frontliners but has yet to receive a reply as of press time.