By Macon Araneta

Government should adopt as its “New Year’s resolution” the settlement of hazard pay and all outstanding payables to health care workers before the year ends, said Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto recently.

“On or before Christmas, they should be paid. Or before the clock strikes 12 on New Year’s Eve, our pandemic frontliners should all be fully paid,” Recto said. 

Recto said health workers “to whom the nation owes so much don’t have to go caroling for what is rightfully theirs.” 

“These are the people who will vaccinate us against the coronavirus next year. Can we not begin the year with zero debts to them?” Recto said. 

Recto said months-long backlog in unpaid pandemic allowances to thousands of health care workers whose identities are known raises question as to the ability of the government to inoculate more than 100 million Filipinos. 

“If we have problems with the payroll of a relatively few, then what gives us the confidence to execute a vaccine delivery plan that is massive in scale, precisely orchestrated, and within a limited time window?” Recto said.

The Bayanihan I and II Laws authorized a draft of monetary and non-monetary incentives for private and public medical workers. 

This was followed with administrative orders issued by President Duterte. 

Among them are Actual Hazard Duty Pay for private and public health workers, Special Risk Allowance for those in government employ and tax-free compensation for public and private healthcare workers who have contracted COVID-19.  PHP1 million for those who succumb to the disease, PHP100,000 for severe or critical cases and PHP15,000 for mild or moderate infections.

Under Administrative Order number 35, health workers will get a hazard pay of PHP3,000 for every month of duty.

There are also additional COVID-19 special risk allowance, not exceeding PHP5,000 a month.

But last week’s Senate debates on the DOH’s 2021 budget revealed that thousands of these frontliners have not received their benefits for months.