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De Lima proposes 15-day paid leave for disaster volunteers

Senator Leila M. de Lima has proposed a 15-day paid leaves from work to be granted to disaster response volunteers to allow them to participate in specialized disaster-related operations for government-led and government-accredited institutions.

De Lima filed Senate Bill (SB) No. 1284 seeking to grant disaster service volunteers up to an aggregate of 15 days of paid leave from work within a year to allow them to perform their duties when called upon to render disaster response service.

“As a country who has suffered increasing levels of calamity, it behooves our government to continue to rise to the occasion. One such measure is to activate our civil servants as reserve emergency responders in times of extraordinary disasters,” she said.

“Legislation must be made not only to allow our government employees to join the disaster response contingent but to encourage them to do so by protecting their tenure and granting paid leaves to those who are truly qualified,” she added.

De Lima pointed out how the Philippines has always been vulnerable to natural and man-made disasters, becoming the third most disaster-prone country in the world due to its proximity to the so-called “Pacific Ring of Fire”.

“These natural disasters, such as typhoons, earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions, landslides and fires exposes the country and our people to a wide range of risks, billion-worth destruction and losing the lives of our citizens,” she said.

According to her, a proactive approach to disaster-response, which includes increasing the required number of competent volunteers with the necessary support and developing an up-to-date disaster-response plan, among others, is imperative.

“These volunteers play an important role in increasing the government’s response capacity especially at the community level,” said De Lima, who chairs the Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development in the Senate.

Under SB No. 1284, to be known as the “Disaster Response Volunteer Leave Act of 2020,” the disaster response volunteer leave with pay shall be subject to approval by the government department or agency in which the covered employee is employed.

The employee who was granted leave must be compensated by the employing agency at the employee's regular rate of pay for those regular work hours during which the employee is absent from work due to volunteer service.

“A covered employee who is granted leave [s]hall not lose any seniority or any already accumulated vacation time, sick time or earned overtime due to such leave,” De Lima noted, citing a provision in her proposed measure.

The De Lima bill also mandates the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) to enter into an agreement with the Government Service Insurance System to provide for insurance coverage for all covered employees rendering disaster response services.

Last Jan. 21, the lady Senator from Bicol also filed SB No. 1285 which seeks to protect licensed and qualified volunteers from liability in the performance of their duties and functions in times of emergency situations or disasters.

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