The labor department has broadened the coverage of assistance available to workers in the biofuel industry using coconut as feedstock.

In Department Order 194, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III revised the guidelines on the implementation of the Social Amelioration and Welfare Program (SAWP) and expanding its coverage.

The SAWP aims to uplift the condition of coco- or biodiesel workers by providing livelihood assistance, training and educational assistance, social protection and welfare benefits, and emergency assistance through the lien collected from Department of Energy-accredited coco-biodiesel producers.

Under the department order, the SAWP covers employers who are coco-biodiesel producers duly accredited under the Biofuels Act of 2006 or existing laws; employees or workers of DOE-accredited coco-biodiesel plants and copra/CNO mills, regardless of employment status, except managerial employees; and coconut farmers and farm workers.

To avail the SAWP benefits, those who may propose socio-economic projects for bioethanol workers are the duly registered farmers’ and farm workers’ associations, groups or cooperatives and plant workers’ associations, groups, cooperatives or unions; duly accredited and SAWP lien contributing CME producers; and duly registered coconut oil mill companies providing oil/feedstock to DOE-accredited CME plants.

The Philippine Coconut Authority and its regional offices; the Bureau of Workers with Special Concerns (BWSC); or the DOLE’s regional offices may also propose projects. Meanwhile, those who are eligible to avail of the program, projects, or services are all coco- or biodiesel workers such as coconut farmers, farm workers, and plant workers; dependents of bonafide members of plant workers’ group, association, cooperative or union, farmers’ and farm workers’ group, association or cooperative.

In relation to D.O. 194, Bello also issued Department Order No. 193, which sets the standards in the implementation of the college and technical-vocational assistance under the SAWP.

The assistance targets beneficiaries who either want to pursue their baccalaureate degrees or undergo technical or vocational skills training.

For the initial implementation of the assistance, a total of 19 college education assistance scholars and a total of 25 technical vocational education assistance scholars shall be accepted and processed beginning school year 2018-2019.

This will be equitably distributed amongst DOLE Regional Offices implementing SAWP and/or regions that have been identified by the Tripartite Consultative Council as feedstock producing regions.

For SY 2018-2019, the identified regions are NCR, IV-A, V, VIII, IX, X, XI, and XII.

The priority courses are Chemistry; Chemical, Electrical, Mechanical, and Agricultural Engineering; Agriculture; Agricultural Economics; Environmental Studies; and other short-term courses relevant to the biodiesel sector.

Other priority courses are those identified by the DOLE, Commission on Higher Education (CHED), and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

The College Education Assistance shall provide a grant with a maximum amount of P50k per school year, regardless of the number of terms of each year, preferably in a state college or university accredited by CHED.

It shall cover the payment for any of the following: tuition, laboratory fees, miscellaneous and other school fees, uniform/clothing allowance, meal allowance, book allowance, and/or transportation allowance.

Meanwhile, the Technical Vocational Education Assistance shall be based on the corresponding TESDA rates existing in the locality or shall not exceed the maximum amount of P50k per annum for each student grantee or availee.

Depending on the nature of the training course, the grant assistance may also include the provision of starter kits, uniform, and subsidy allowance for dormitory, meals, competency examination, and other necessary expenses required by the accredited training institution during the training period.

The graduates shall be required with service obligations in the biodiesel sector up to a maximum of two years after graduation.

For more information, interested beneficiaries may inquire at the Bureau of Workers with Special Concerns at 404-3336 or visit the nearest DOLE Field, Provincial, or Regional Offices.

END/ aldm

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