MANILA - Senators marked this year's Labor Day by praising workers who continue to render service during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, saying those who are tending to the sick and those who keep the economy running should receive more aid from the government.
Workers' sacrifices during this global pandemic are immeasurable, Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development chair Joel Villanueva said in a taped video sent to reporters.
"Makasaysayan po ang Araw ng Paggawa sa panahon ng COVID-19 pandemic dahil hindi po biro ang ating laban na kinakaharap," Villanueva said.
(Labor Day in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic is historic because the fight we are facing is no joke.)
"Hindi po matatawaran ang sakripisyo ng bawat isa sa atin. Ipinapanalangin po natin ang mga naglaan ng kanilang buhay sa ngalan ng kanilang tungkulin sa loob man ng ospital o sa daan," he said, referring to frontliners who succumbed to the highly-contagious disease.
(Our sacrifices are immeasurable. We are praying for those who gave their lives may it be inside hospitals or on streets.)
Senate Committee on Public Services chair Grace Poe also lauded workers who have been "quietly carrying out their duties," including "work-from-home staff and even our families who make sure we are safe and healthy."
Workers are the Philippines' "greatest resources," Poe said in a statement.
"As we tiptoe into a changed landscape after weeks in lockdown, our workers will be the cure in reviving the nation's economic engine towards a new, better society," she said.
"We seek continuous and urgent support for the thousands of workers who have been displaced or are in the throes of losing their livelihood," she said.
SENATE READY TO LEGISLATE MORE FUNDS
The Senate is "ready to help temporarily displaced Filipino workers" through the issuance of additional funds to "help open windows for jobs and investments," Sen. Nancy Binay said on a statement.
"Uncertainty may grip the labor sector, but it is critical that that we in government --together with movers in the private sector -- support the Filipino workforce as they face new challenges in this trying time," Binay said.
"We must be enablers, not disablers, who will strengthen our workers' competitive edge," she said.
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian urged employers to provide incentives for workers to help them start anew after weeks of work stoppage to curb the spread of the disease.
"Ang pag-unlad ng ating bansa ay nakasalalay sa sipag at galing ng ating mga manggagawa. Sa krisis na ating kinakaharap, siguraduhin natin na natutugunan ang kanilang mga pangangailangan," he said in a tweet.
(The progress of our country depends on the diligence and skill of our workers. With the crisis that we face, let us make sure that we respond to their needs.)
"With the economic and health crisis we are facing today, let's ensure that no one will be left behind," he said.
The government is planning to provide wage subsidies for employees of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) who were displaced due to the pandemic, Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go said in a separate statement.
"Malaking parte ng bumubuhay sa ating ekonomiya ay ang mga MSMEs at ang kanilang mga workers. Tulungan natin silang buhayin ang kanilang negosyo at maiahon ang kanilang mga empleyado habang nasa panahon ng krisis ang buong bansa," said Go, who previously served as President Rodrigo Duterte's close aide.
(MSMEs and their workers play a big part in our economy. Let us help them revivie their businesses and help their workers start anew even while the entire country is still facing this crisis.)
Detained Sen. Leila de Lima urged the national government to "provide clear and concrete plans" for workers.
"Don't start with proposals that will not carry through and will just end up giving our workers false hopes," she said.
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) earlier halted its cash aid program for qualified workers in the formal sector after applications for the grant "ballooned beyond the capacity."
As of April 28, at least 2.3 million workers in the Philippines were displaced due to the COVID-19 crisis, according to DOLE data cited in an ABS-CBN Research report.