The House Ways and Means Committee, chaired by Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda is pushing for a 20-percent discount on purchases by health workers in the country’s 42,046 barangays, to assist them specially during the Covid-19 pandemic, given their low salaries.
Earlier this week, the panel approved a still unnumbered substitute bill to several measures proposing the Magna Carta for Barangay Health Workers or BHWs Act. The substitute bill includes the panel’s amendment, a 20 percent discount on all items enumerated under the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010.
Salceda said these items include health expenses, public transport fares, restaurants and hotels, theaters and cinemas, and burial and death care expenses. The original measure proposes a 10% discount and a value-added tax (VAT) exemption for BHWs, but only for their medical needs.
The added provision, Salceda explained, “honors the social obligation we owe BHWs, most of whom were not compensated for the risks they took during the pandemic, and who were not included in the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act.”
He said Administrative Order No. 36, which implemented the special risk allowance to health care workers, were limited only to BHWs assigned to hospitals, laboratories, or medical and quarantine facilities.
“It’s not like the BHWs were not at risk when they were just doing contact tracing work or serving those who were quarantined at home. That was not our intention in Congress, and we have to correct it somehow,” Salceda added.
He said the BHWs are the most important component players in the planned granular lockdown system that will be implemented only in areas with an alarming rise in Covid-19 cases.
“Without BHWs, this approach will not work. The risks they take are immense. By definition, they are almost always low-income. They deserve a bit of compensation,” he stressed.