DOLE releases P12.25-M for education, livelihood, and health care for sugar workers and dependents

Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz yesterday announced that its Bureau of Workers with Special Concerns (BWSC) had recently released
P12.25 million to the Sugar Industry Foundation, Inc. (SIFI) for the continued implementation of its socio-economic projects (SEPs) for sugar workers and their families.

“The BWSC has released the sum of P12.25 million to the SIFI from the nine (9) percent Socio-Economic Project Fund (SEPF) pursuant to Section 10 (b) of Republic Act No. 6982, otherwise known as An Act Strengthening the Social Amelioration Program in the Sugar Industry, Providing the Mechanics for its Implementation, and for Other Purposes,” said Baldoz in a press release.

“The amount represents the 50 percent of the SIFI’s approved 2014 budget of P24.45 million as contained in Sugar Tripartite Council  Resolution No. 1, s. 2014,” Baldoz added.

Baldoz, who chairs the STC, explained that the SIFI’s projects are supportive to the proposed Human Resource Development Master Plan, 2014-2016 for the sugarcane industry which is envisioned to improve workers’ competitiveness and productivity.

One of the SIFI’s projects is its college scholarship for qualified children of sugar workers with high scholastic record (general weighted average of at least 85 percent) and its college assistance for dependents who could not be qualified under the scholarship program, but who have maintained a general weighted average of 80 percent, or higher.

Under the scholarship program, SIFI grants a maximum of P11,000 per semester, or P22,000 per year. On the other hand, it grants P6,500 per semester, or P13,000 a year per qualified grantee of its college assistance program.

With the release of half of the SIFI budget, dependents of sugar workers who availed of the college scholarship during School Year 2013-2014, are assured of their benefits while studying, provided that they pass the eligibility requirements.

Baldoz further  explained that the SIFI will train sugar workers on various skills to open up self- or wage employment opportunities that will add to the incomes of sugar workers and their dependents.

“To ensure that sugarcane industry has an adequate supply of skilled personnel, the SIFI has vowed to train sugar workers on welding and fabrication, plumbing, electrical installation, machine operation, automotive mechanic, and other courses with local demand. Also priority is the training for sugarcane farm technicians, a six-month programme on sugarcane growing and farm management,” Baldoz said.

BWSC Director Charmaine Lobrin-Satumba said all trainees should be recommended either by the planters or planters’ associations.

Another SIFI priority is the promotion of health for sugar workers. Under the SIFI Advantage Health Plan, it subsidizes the enrolment of sugar workers and their dependents so they can be covered with free hospitalization benefits, out-patient services, and preventive health care, among others. It also conducts medical-dental missions in far-flung and underserved areas to provide health care services to sugar workers and their families. Services include free medical consultation, dental extraction, free medicine, deworming and other health related services.
The SIFI is one of the DOLE’s major social partners that implements socio-economic projects for sugar workers. Its annual budget allocation for its socio-economic projects is based on the amount of the 9 percent SEPF collected and is computed based on the production share of sugar millers’ organizations and planters’ federations.

For 2014, out of its P24.45 million budget, the SIFI will utilize P15.075 million, or 61.6 percent, for educational assistance, skills training, and enterprise development for 1,916 beneficiaries; P2.4 million, or 10 percent, for health care insurance and medical-dental mission for 14,000 beneficiaries; P300,000, or 1.2 percent, for livelihood support for  SIFI mom entrepreneurs and for strengthening farmers’ cooperative covering 175 beneficiaries; P550,000, or 2.2 percent, for special events and projects (documentation, survey/tracking of scholars/graduates and advocacy on family wellness and child labor program) for 1,900 beneficiaries; and the remaining P6.125 million, or 25 percent, for general and administrative expenses to be incurred in project implementation.

Other cooperating entities in these projects are the sugar mills, planters’ associations, such as the Confederation of Sugar Producers Association (CONFED), Panay Federation of Sugarcane Planters (PANAYFED) and Luzon Federation of Sugarcane Growers Association, Inc. (LUZONFED), labor unions, and farmers’ cooperatives, as well as local government units in the covered sugar milling districts.

Nilda C. Dominguez/BWSC-PMTSSD

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