Sheila Crisostomo – The Philippine Star
February 15, 2022 | 12:00am
Black valentine: Health workers state their demands on ‘black heart’ picket signs during a rally in front of the Department of Health office in Manila yesterday.
MANILA, Philippines — Health care workers from various public and private hospitals yesterday staged a rally in front of the Department of Health (DOH) main office in Manila to condemn what they described as the government’s continuous disregard of their safety, rights and protection.
Spearheaded by the Alliance of Health Workers (AHW), the protesters decried their low wages and benefits that remain unpaid, and strongly opposed the downgrading of their COVID-19 benefits under Bayanihan Law 2, which was “abolished and replaced by One COVID-19 Allowance (OCA) or Health Emergency Allowance (HEA)” that classifies COVID-19 risk exposure in a hospital setting.
AHW president Robert Mendoza said the new measure threatens their safety.
“We were even more upset when the bicameral conference meeting adopted the Senate version and not the House version,” he said.
According to Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center Employees Union-AHW president Cristy Donguines, COVID-19 is airborne and can be transmitted through aerosol transmission, citing health experts.
“It is not right to categorize health workers with different levels of risk categorization in hospitals and health facilities,” Donguines added, saying the DOH’s risk classification is “tight-fisted” in providing their benefits.
On Valentine’s Day, youth groups, including environmentalists led by Greenpeace, wrote a love letter that called on 2022 election candidates to prove their love for country by committing to an electoral agenda that addresses climate and environmental injustices and supports democratic governance that promotes active citizen participation.
The love letter will be sent to candidates running in the May elections for their signature and commitment to prioritize environmental and social issues in electoral discourse.
“We feel that the discussions around the 2022 elections, so far, have been missing key issues that matter to the youth and our loved ones,” said Cris Jamil Hertez of the Better Normal Youth Movement.
“If these candidates truly love the country, as they say during their campaign sorties, they must show that love by protecting the Philippines and Filipinos from the worsening impacts of the climate crisis,” said Rorei Asinero of the TreeBuk Project.
Greenpeace said 2022 is a crucial window for climate action, given the urgency of addressing the climate crisis. An Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report released earlier this year affirmed that the climate system is rapidly changing, and the scale of change is unprecedented. It also affirmed that weather extremes will be more intense and more frequent.
“Our next leaders have a prime opportunity to put the nation on alert and institute policies that would help us in the struggle for climate justice. The strength of those vying for power should be tested on destructive industries such as fossil fuels and single-use plastic production, on who should be held accountable for their contributions to the climate crisis,” Greenpeace campaigner Joanna Sustento said.
The group is also urging Filipino voters, especially the youth who comprise a majority of the voting population, to consider the candidates’ position on climate issues when choosing the right leaders. – Rhodina Villanueva