Philippines COVID-19 response a step ahead among ILO member-states

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GENEVA – The Philippine government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which declared the coronavirus disease as a compensable occupational disease, positioned the country ‘a step ahead’ among the member states of the International Labor Organization (ILO).

In his address to the 109th Session of the International Labor Conference (ILC) in Geneva, Switzerland recently, Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III shared the Department of Labor and Employment – Employees’ Compensation Commission’s declaration of COVID-19 as a compensable occupational disease.

The Philippine government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which declared the coronavirus disease as a compensable occupational disease, positioned the country ‘a step ahead’ among the member states of the International Labor Organization (ILO).

Bello said the declaration is among the Philippine government’s efforts to strengthen decent work.

While the ILO member states are still debating on whether to declare COVID-19 as an occupational disease, the Philippine government is already ahead with its response in cushioning the impact of the pandemic to workers, the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Geneva observed.

Earlier, Bello shared that the government has been consistent in declaring the compensability of COVID-19 under the ‘increased risk’ theory of the employees’ compensation packages.

“With its commitment to be responsive and relevant to the changing demands of the time, we studied the possible inclusion of COVID-19 in the ECC’s list of occupational and work-related diseases,” the labor chief added.

The labor chief also brought to the international parliament of labor another Philippine government’s trailblazing improvement in the world of work which brought forth the enactment of Telecommuting Act in January 2019, or even before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The law, which is now significantly serving the private sector workers, allows alternative work arrangements under terms and conditions, not below the minimum labor standards under the Labor Code. It also ensures that workers receive the same treatment and benefits as physically reporting at work premises.

In the same address, Bello highlighted the formulation of the National Employment Recovery Strategy (NERS).

A product of tripartite social dialogue, NERS “serves as a blueprint for the Philippines as we collectively address the erosion of decent work and navigate our way toward a better normal” based on the ILO policy framework “for tackling the impacts of the pandemic,” said Bello.

The Secretary cited the development of appropriate upskilling and retooling mechanisms for workers and enterprises to help them harness the full potential of digital transformation as strategic action and identify possible income support schemes, such as wage subsidies, to facilitate employment preservation.

The International Labor Conference meets annually in June to, among others, craft and adopt international labor standards in the form of conventions and recommendations and resolutions that provide guidelines for the ILO’s general policy and future activities.

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