DOLE expands benefits for biofuel industry workers

Workers in the biofuel industry utilizing coconut as feedstock are assured of livelihood and social protection and welfare benefits as the labor department further spelled out assistance accorded to them under the Social Amelioration and Welfare Program (SAWP).

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III issued Department Order No. 225, Series of 2021, which provides that start-up capital to be given to qualified coco or biodiesel workers and their dependents may now be given either in cash or in kind.

It also sets the amount that beneficiaries will receive under the maternity and death benefit assistance.

The issuance amends Department Order No. 194-18. Previously, start-up capital was given only in-kind, while maternity and death benefits were not mentioned in past issuances.

Since 2012, the labor department is collecting lien from Coco Methyl Ester (CME) producers amounting to P0.05 per liter of CME sold to oil companies.

The accumulated fund is used to implement projects under SAWP, such as livelihood assistance, training, and vocational education assistance, social protection and welfare benefits, and emergency assistance for coco or biodiesel workers, including their dependents.

Under Department Order No. 225, livelihood assistance includes training on entrepreneurship and enterprise development, provision of tools and equipment, materials including start-up capital that will be given either in working capital/cash or in-kind which are deemed essential in the start-up, enhancement, or restoration of the livelihood of the beneficiaries.

The assistance shall be given after the evaluation and validation by DOLE, with technical assistance from the Philippine Coconut Authority and its regional units, if necessary, on the capacity or readiness of the individual, group, or cooperative to implement the livelihood undertaking.

Under social protection and welfare benefits, meanwhile, qualified female coco or biodiesel workers can now avail of the one-time maternity benefit amounting to P5,000.

Also, bonafide members or immediate family members of the coconut farmers and farm workers and employees of Department of Energy-accredited CME plants and copra/CNO mills can avail of the death benefit amounting to P7,000 and an additional P3,000 if the cause of death has been exacerbated by or due to COVID-19.

The amount allocated for the maternity and death benefits will be reviewed by the Tripartite Consultative Council (TCC) every three years or earlier as requested by at least two of the TCC members or by the TCC Secretariat.

The Bureau of Workers with Special Concerns, as SAWP program manager and TCC Secretariat, shall issue separate procedures manual for all concerned DOLE Regional Offices for proper implementation and interpretation of the amendment.

Department Order No. 225 took effect on May 31. Under the Biofuels Act of 2006, DOLE was tasked to promote gainful livelihood opportunities, facilitate productive employment, and ensure access of biofuel workers to productive resources and social protection coverage.

In line with this, DOLE is the implementing agency for the development and management of SAWP for biofuel workers.