Just recently, Honorable Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz signed Department Order No. 114 –A, series of 2016, Amending Department Order No. 114-11 (Amended Rules and Regulations Implementing Republic Act No. 6982), increasing the amount of maternity and death benefits under the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) in the Sugar Industry. The amount of cash benefits has been increased from Php2,000.00 to Php5,000.00 for maternity benefit, and from Php7,000.00 to Php10,000.00 for death benefit. Said assistance is in addition to the existing benefits granted by law (e.g. SSS, PhilHealth) or collective bargaining agreements.
The amended guidelines is one of the reforms in the implementation of the SAP to make it more responsive to the needs of the sugar workers. The last increase in the amount of maternity benefit was in 1996. In the case of death benefit, the last increase in the amount of benefit was in 2001.
“The increase was made considering that the monetary value of said benefits has been eroded over the years and cannot anymore sufficiently augment the cost of child giving birth and funeral services”, Baldoz explained. She also mentioned that the increase in maternity benefit aims to contribute in the achievement of maternal and child health goals of the government particularly in reducing child mortality, while the increase in death benefit will help the family of the deceased sugar worker to provide decent burial to their loved ones.
Under the Sugar Workers Maternity Benefit Program, the cash benefit is given to covered woman sugar worker for every delivery or therapeutic abortion. To be qualified, a claimant must have rendered at least 90 days of continuous or aggregate service during the current crop year or the last crop year immediately prior to such delivery.
For Sugar Workers Death Benefit Program on the other hand, the cash benefit is given to the beneficiaries of the deceased sugar worker who have rendered at least three months of continuous or aggregate service within the current crop year or the crop year immediately prior to his or her death. These programs are being implemented in the sugar producing regions (II, III, IV-A, V, VI, VII, VIII, X, XI, XII including the Negros Island Region).
Under Section 10 of RA 6982, funds for these programs shall be sourced from the 20% share of the SAP lien for socio-economic programs, whereby 5% of which shall be utilized for death benefit program, 3% for maternity benefit for women sugar workers, 9% for socio-economic projects for sugar workers, and 3% for Administrative Expense Fund.
With the increase in benefits, based on historical performance of both programs, around 3,000 sugar workers are estimated to avail of maternity benefit and 2,000 for death benefit annually.
In terms of sustainability, Baldoz explained that the increase in benefit is supported by the unutilized fund balances of maternity and death benefits as well as the projected lien collections.
To claim the said benefits, qualified applicants may coordinate with the nearest DOLE Provincial or Field Office in their area regarding the requirements and other details.