(PNA file photo by Jess M. Escaros Jr.)

MANILA – An official of the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) on Tuesday joined the rising clamor to provide benefits and social protection to delivery riders.

During Tuesday’s hearing that tackled Senate Bill No. (SBN) 1275, or the Act Providing for Work Benefits and Social Protection to All Delivery Platform Riders Working in the Gig Economy, NAPC's Formal Labor and Migrants sectoral representative Edwin Bustillos emphasized the importance of delivery riders and suggested they are made regular employees.

"Hindi kasi magagawa 'yung delivery kung hindi sa mga rider na ito (Deliveries will not be possible without the riders). And therefore, ‘yung kanilang posisyon ay (their position is) essential to the business of these companies na nagdi-dispatch ng kanilang mga produkto para sa mga (who dispatches their products for the) consumer," Bustillos told the Committees on Labor, Social Justice, and Finance.

SBN 1275, filed by Senator Francis Tolentino last month, seeks to establish an employer-employee relationship between riders and digital platform companies that would entitle delivery riders to minimum wage, social protection, and more comprehensive work benefits like other regular employees in the private sector.

Bustillos also supported SBN 136 or the Freelancers Act, authored by Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva, to require the client and the freelance worker to enter into a written contract that specifies all the services that the latter is expected to render, the compensation, and other relevant terms and conditions of the agreement.

It will prohibit contract alterations and arbitrary reduction of fees for freelancers.

Bustillos’ position was echoed by the Departments of Trade and Industry (DTI), Information and Communications Technology (DICT), and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

DTI Assistant Secretary Dominic Tolentino said given the ever-changing nature of the global business landscape brought about by digitalization, freelancers and self-employed individuals must be supported and protected.

"We have to give them protection in terms of life insurance because of the workload that they are taking every time they provide their services," Tolentino said.

Based on DICT's informal survey, the number of workers in the gig economy grew by 208 percent in 2020, contributing to around PHP46 million increase in revenues.

"Among the clamors of the freelancers is they are not being recognized, depriving them of access to certain loans, credit cards, and other opportunities," DICT Assistant Secretary Jeffrey Ian Dy said.

"More or less 150 online courses ang pwedeng i-avail ng ating mga (can be availed by our) freelancer para lalong mapaghusay ang kanilang kakayahan sa anumang (so they can enrich their capabilities in whatever) skills or competencies na maaaring kailanganin nila (that they might need)," TESDA Deputy Director General Tonisito Umali told senators. (PNA)