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25, 2013

NR # 2995

Solon seeks PhilHealth coverage for agricultural workers

Agricultural workers, like the sacadas or sugarcane workers, shall soon enjoy health and medical benefits that will help promote their welfare once a proposal for inclusion in the health coverage is approved. In House Bill 6684, Rep. Rafael V. Mariano (Party-list, Anakpawis) proposed the mandatory coverage of agricultural workers/farmworkers in the National Health Insurance Program (NHIP) of the government under the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth). Under the bill, whether they are permanent, contractual or seasonal, all agricultural workers, regardless of the remuneration they receive from their employers, shall be fully covered provided they have rendered at least six months of continuous work in the landholding in which they render work, Mariano said. The party-list solon said these farmworkers are confronted with different forms of exploitation and are usually paid way below the minimum wage and their tenure of employment is not also secured. Most of them are hired either as contractual or seasonal workers and are deprived of social benefits and do not enjoy any health and medical benefits, Mariano added. The solon said under existing laws, only permanent workers are entitled to social benefits such as housing and health benefits even if contractual and seasonal farmworkers are exposed to the same risks that permanent agricultural workers are facing. However, even if contractual and seasonal agricultural workers will be covered by the existing government health program, they cannot afford to pay the contributions required under the law because of their low wages, Mariano said. But in the case of permanent farmworkers, Mariano said there have been reports received by the Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), a national organization of agricultural workers in the country, about the non-remittance of contributions by the employers. According to reports, contributions for Philhealth, Social Security System (SSS) and Pag-Ibig Fund are deducted from agricultural workers salary but are not remitted by their employers to the concerned agencies. As a result, they also do not receive the benefits they are entitled to, Mariano said.

Landowners or corporations who fail to enroll agricultural workers/farmworkers shall be penalized with a fine of not less than P100,000 but not more than P500,000 for each agricultural worker /farmworker not enrolled in the program. The corporation or landowner is also liable to pay P50,000 to each unenrolled agricultural/farm worker, Mariano said. Mariano said these workers, regardless of tenure of employment, contribute to the development of the landholdings where they work and to the countrys agriculture. Each of their work is an essential part of the whole production which tends to be the basis of development, he added. (30) mvip