DOLE OKs release of P18M for sugar workers’ benefits

Sugar industry workers in Murcia, Negros Occidental.*Ronnie Baldonado photo

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has authorized the release of additional Social Amelioration Program (SAP) funds amounting to P18.56 million for sugar industry workers’ maternity and death benefit claims.

DOLE Administrative Order No. 318 signed by Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma on October 4 and released on Monday, October 16, authorized the Bureau of Workers with Special Concerns (BWSC) to process the release of the funds worth P6.8 million for the maternity benefit program and P11.76 million for the death benefit program for sugar workers.

The funds will be allocated to DOLE Regional Offices 2, 3, 4A, 5, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12 and to the DOLE Provincial Offices in Iloilo and Negros Occidental.

The directive aims to guarantee the availability of reserve funds for the implementation of the benefits in response to DOLE Department Order No. 236 issued in 2022, which increased the maternity benefit for sugar workers from P5,000 to P8,000 and the death benefit from P10,000 to P14,000.

Additional reserve funds amounting to P400,000 corresponding to 50 maternity benefit claims will be each released to the DOLE Regional Offices in Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Bicol, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Davao and Soccsksargen, and the DOLE Provincial Office in Iloilo.

The DOLE added funds amounting to P640,000 for 80 maternity benefit claims will be released to DOLE Cagayan Valley; P2.24 million for 280 maternity benefit claims in DOLE Negros Occidental; and P720,000 for 90 maternity benefit claims in DOLE Northern Mindanao.

Meanwhile, the BWSC was also authorized to release P700,000 corresponding to 50 death benefit claims each to the DOLE Regional/Provincial Offices in Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Bicol, Iloilo, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Northern Mindanao, Davao and Soccsksargen.

A total of P1.26 million corresponding to 90 death benefit claims will be released to DOLE Calabarzon while P4.2 million will be given to DOLE Negros Occidental to fund 300 death benefit claims.

The order further allocates additional funds to DOLE Regional Office 2 and DOLE Negros Occidental Provincial Office for 50 claims per program component to sugarcane-based bioethanol workers under the Social Amelioration and Welfare Program for workers in the biofuels industry.

The DOLE added the funds shall be replenished by the BWSC, based on the actual number of monthly benefit claims processed in the respective DOLE Regional/Provincial Offices, subject to the usual government accounting and auditing rules and regulations, the directive stated.

Funded by the levy imposed on the gross production of sugar, the SAP aims to augment the income of sugar workers and finance programs for their livelihood and well-being.

Twenty percent of the collected lien is allocated for the socio-economic project component of the SAP distributed as follows: maternity benefit fund (3 percent), death benefit fund (5 percent), socio-economic project fund (9 percent), with the remaining 3 percent allocated for the SAP administrative and operating expenses.

Republic Act 6982, or An Act Strengthening the Social Amelioration Program in the Sugar Industry, directs the DOLE Secretary, in consultation with the Sugar Tripartite Council, to promulgate rules and regulations to carry out the provisions of the law, including the efficient collection, monitoring and equitable distribution of the lien and such benefits as provided for by the law.*PNA

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