BY MARCHEL P. ESPINA
The Department of Labor and Employment office in Negros Occidental already released P16.907 million in cash assistance to sugar industry workers in the province, who were affected by the coronavirus disease pandemic, its provincial head, Mary Agnes Capigon, said yesterday.
The program provides a one-time financial assistance of P1,000 to sugarcane field workers, she said, adding that the total approved budget was P24.521 million.
Of the figure, 80 percent was released to sugarcane field workers through the planters’ associations, while the remaining 20 percent was allocated to sugar mill workers and field workers who did not receive the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) grant, as identified by DOLE-registered workers’ organizations and unions in Negros Occidental, Capigon said.
She said that, from May to August, P8.321 million was released to 26 planters’ associations in the province while P8.586 million was disbursed to workers in nine sugar mills and field workers in the cities of Bacolod, Talisay, Silay, Victorias, Cadiz, Sagay, San Carlos, Bago, La Carlota, Kabankalan, and Sipalay, and the towns of EB Magalona, Manapla, Murcia, Valladolid, Pontevedra, Binalbagan, and Ilog.
“The sugarcane field workers are considered one of the most vulnerable and highly indigent sectors in our society,” Capigon said.
She added that implemented measures, such as flexible work arrangements, and delays in harvest have contributed to their vulnerabilities.
Capigon said that due to the limited budget, not all sugar industry workers in Negros Occidental were covered by the financial assistance.
She also said that mill workers who were not affected by the preventive measures on Covid-19, and field workers who already received SAP subsidy from the Department of Social Welfare and Development were excluded from the list of beneficiaries.
“The distribution of the financial assistance is still ongoing until we fully release the total allocated budget for Negros Occidental,” she said.
The financial aid is part of the Emergency Subsidy Program for low income-earner households, such as the sugar industry workers, as proposed by the Sugar Tripartite Council and approved by DOLE, in line with Republic Act No. 11649, or the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act, she added.*MPE