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SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau

House panel approves bill granting additional benefits to PWDs
07 December 2017 07:28:33 PM

The House committee on social services chaired by Rep. Sandra Eriguel, M.D. (2ndDistrict, La Union) has approved a substitute bill granting additional privileges to persons with disability, such as equal opportunity for employment and providing them with a P500 monthly stipend to augment their daily subsistence and medical needs, and free assistive devices and technologies.

The unnumbered bill substituted House Bills 656, 1584, 1586, 1916, 2396, 4865, 5058 and 6284 authored by Reps. Jerry Trenas, Alfred Vargas III, MIcaela Violago, Jose Sy-Alvarado, Dennis Laogan, Emmeline Aglipay-Villar, and Tricia Nicol Velasco-Catera, respectively.

A technical working group (TWG) headed by Sy-Alvarado drafted the substitute bill which the committee subsequently approved.

The bill seeks to amend Section 5 of Republic Act 7277, as amended, otherwise known as the “Magna Carta for Persons with Disability.” The proposed amendment to Section 5 which is titled Equal Opportunity for Employment provides that no person with disability shall be denied access to opportunities for suitable employment. A qualified employee with disability shall be subject to the same terms and conditions of employment and share the same compensation, privileges, benefits, fringe benefits, incentives or allowances as a qualified able-bodied person.

At least two percent of all positions in government agencies, offices, or corporations shall be filled up with qualified PWDs.

Meanwhile, private corporations shall be mandated to reserve at least one percent of all positions for PWDs. Those corporations with more than 1,000 employees are mandated to reserve at least two percent of all positions for PWDs.

The bill also seeks to amend Section 8 of RA 7277 titled Incentives for Employers so that to encourage the active participation of the private sector in promoting the rights of PWDs and ensure gainful employment for qualified PWDs, adequate incentives shall be provided to private entities which employs PWDs.

Private entities which employ PWDs who meet the required skills or qualifications, as apprentices or learners, shall be entitled to an additional deduction from their gross income equivalent to 25 percent of the total amount paid as salaries and wages to PWDs.

Likewise, private firms that employ PWDs as regular employees shall be entitled to an additional deduction from their gross income equivalent to 50 percent of the total amount paid as salaries and wages to PWDs.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), through its level of compliance system, shall issue a certificate of compliance to private entities which employed PWDs.

If there is no qualified PWD applicant after 30 days from the mandatory publication either through print, broadcast, internet or social media by the employer of its job vacancy reserved for PWDs, the employer may hire a non-PWD applicant for said positions reserved for PWDs in private entities by securing a prior approval from the LGU concerned.

The bill also seeks the amendment of Section 32 of Chapter 8, Title 2 of RA 7277, as amended, so that PWDs shall be entitled to a P500 monthly stipend to augment the daily subsistence, medical and other needs of marginalized PWDs, subject to the review by the Joint Congressional Committees on Appropriations and Social Services, in consultation with the National Council on Disability Affairs (NCDA) and other concerned agencies.

PWDs who are recipients of similar financial assistance from the government, including monetary assistance for senior citizens shall no longer be given the same monetary stipend.

The bill also provides for free assistive technology services, including the evaluation of the needs and the functional capacity of PWDs in the customary environment or place of employment, as well as selecting, designing, fitting, customizing, adapting, applying, maintaining, repairing, or replacing assistive technology device; training or technical assistance for PWDs; and other forms of assistance such as sign language interpreting and job coaching.

The bill also mandates the provision of free assistive devices and technologies including technical aids, prosthetic and orthotic devices or appliances, particularly for personal use of PWDs that will restore their social functioning and participation in economic activities and community affairs, and such other devices and technologies appropriate to other disabilities. The beneficiary is a marginalized PWD, as certified by the local health office of the LGU concerned.

Per the bill, assistive devices and technologies are those whose primary purpose is to maintain or improve an individual’s functioning and independence to facilitate participation and enhance overall well-being by helping prevent impairments and secondary health conditions. Examples of these are wheelchairs and walkers; prostheses; hearing aids; aids for the visually impaired; and specialized computer software, hardware and peripherals that increase mobility, hearing, vision, or communication capacities.

Persons with disability shall also be exempted from passport processing fees, travel taxes, terminal fees, other fees and charges levied in airports, ports, or other terminals by the government, any of its agencies or instrumentalities, or by government-owned or controlled corporations.

The substitute bill shall now be referred the committee on appropriations chaired by Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles (1st District, Davao City) for approval of its funding provision. / RBB