The Senate on Valentine's Day passed on second reading Senate Bill No. 1317 or “An Act Strengthening Compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Standards (OSHS) and Providing Penalties for Violations Thereof” that seeks to amend the 41-year old Labor Code of the Philippines which, at present, does not declare unlawful violations of OSHS.
Senator Joel Villanueva, author and sponsor of the measure, said that the passage of the bill is an important milestone for the Senate and one out of many proofs that the Senate works expeditiously to guarantee the well-being of ordinary Filipinos.
"I sincerely believe that we’ve said ‘yes' to this measure not because this day, Valentine’s Day, is meant for love but certainly because we understand the importance of health and safety in our workplaces,” Villanueva said in his speech.
“It was in 2004 during the 13th Congress when this measure was first filed. Finally, after four Congresses, this important legislation is closer to becoming a law. There is much more work to be done to ensure that this measure will be enacted, and when that day comes, I’m sure it’s going to be a resounding victory to all our workers,” the senator added.
Villanueva repeatedly called for the immediate passage of the bill following a series of workplace accidents -- the latest was the fire mishap at the NCCC Mall in Davao last December 2017.
The tragedy left 38 fatalities, one of them worked as a safety officer of the mall and 37 are all employees of Research Now SSI, a Texas-based call center company which rented the whole fourth floor of the mall.
For the longest time, violation of occupational health and safety standards has no fines or penalties. The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) only issues a Work Stoppage Order (WSO) if there is an imminent danger or would result to disabling injury.
“Obviously, this practice has not been successful in inculcating culture of OSH compliance nor in addressing wanton disregard of OSH standards,” Villanueva said.
Based on the record of the Bureau of Working Conditions under DOLE, 52 fatal and 54 non-fatal workplace accidents were reported in 2014. The number increased to 125 fatal and 69 non-fatal reported workplace accidents in 2015. Meanwhile, as of October 2016, the bureau recorded a number of 22 fatal and 18 non-fatal workplace accidents.
Under the proposed measure, up to an amount of P100,000.00 will serve as an administrative penalty for the erring employer for every day of non-correction of violation.
"Ang mga manggagawa po ang 'puso' ng anumang negosyo, maliit o malaki mang kumpanya, at kung aalagaan, pakaiingatan po natin sila, ilalayo sa sakit o kapahamakan, mamahalin din nila ang kanilang trabaho. Sabi nga po, sa anumang relasyon, kahit pa 'employer-employee relationship' ‘yan, dapat give-and-take para tumibay po ang samahan. Hindi po pagmamahal ‘yan kung mapuputulan sila ng daliri o braso, mawawalan ng paningin, o kaya mamamatay sa sunog o aksidente,” Villanueva stressed.