Philippines recognises COVID-19 an occupational disease

The Philippines has declared COVID-19 as a compensable occupational and work-related disease. 

In a resolution passed on 14 April, the country’s Employees’ Compensation Commission (ECC), an attached agency of the Philippine labour department, granted the inclusion of COVID-19 as a compensable illness following a study by the government-run Occupational Safety and Health Center (OSHC) that “COVID-19 can be a work-related disease based on exposure and work.”

The ECC said that COVID-19 cases can be compensated under the “increased risk theory,” which also covers health care workers, non-medical frontliners and other essential workers, who are at high risk of infection. 

Prior to this, the Building and Woodworkers International (BWI) and the Nagkaisa Labour Coalition lobbied the ECC to declare COVID-19 as compensable disease.

The Nagkaisa-affiliated Federation of Free Workers (FFW) partnered with BWI and the Danish Trade Union Development Agency on a research on occupational diseases as part of the effort to push for the recognition of COVID-19 as an occupational disease. A campaign video was also produced at the height of the debates on whether or not COVID-19 is a work-related disease. 

“We laud the ECC for listening to the cry of workers and finally agreeing to include COVID-19 in its list of occupational diseases. With COVID-19 listed as an occupational disease, workers who contract the virus would now be entitled to employees' compensation for missed time at work, apart from the 'assistance' they are also entitled to," Nagkaisa Labor Coalition Chairperson Atty. Sonny Matula said.

However, Nagkaisa raised the need to ensure that the application process for workers to avail the compensation must be simple. "We certainly do not want this benefit to remain on paper. Cutting the red tape to avail of the benefit would certainly help,” Matula said.