Close to a million workers in the informal economy are set to benefit from the government’s emergency employment program as the country reels from the debilitating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the labor department said on Sunday.

This after Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III ordered the implementation of the Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/ Displaced Workers (TUPAD) program as a post-COVID intervention measure to help informal sector workers recover from economic displacement and loss of income following a countrywide quarantine to arrest the spread of the virus.

TUPAD is a short-term emergency employment program of the Department of Labor and Employment to mitigate the impact of calamities, disasters and epidemics on workers in the informal economy.

The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization has recently cited the Philippines for implementing the noble social protection measure that specifically targeted the informal sector workers being the most vulnerable among those affected by the global pandemic.

FAO said the Philippines is among only 11 countries that adopted such programs.

FAO referred to the DOLE’s modified TUPAD dubbed Barangay Ko, Bahay Ko or TUPAD #BKBK where beneficiaries were paid the minimum wage in their respective areas for 10 days of disinfection and sanitation work of their dwellings and immediate vicinity. The program benefited more than 337,000 workers.

Bello said the regular TUPAD program is seen to reach about 962,000 informal sector workers, a huge part of whom or more than 540,000 had sought assistance under the BKBK program.

In an administrative order issued on May 1, Bello directed that the program be implemented to tap workers in helping local government units in the delivery of essential goods and services like personal hygiene materials, medicines, and personal protective equipment for frontliners and the general public.

He also ordered the hiring of workers for 10 days to assist in packing relief goods and other jobs to be determined by the LGUs; transport services for frontline workers or in setting up mobile markets; and in the sanitation and disinfection of communities provided they strictly observe the physical distancing protocols.

The program will commence this month and run until June in areas under general community quarantine, according to Director Karen Trayvilla of the Bureau of Workers with Special Concerns (BWSC). It will require a budget of at least P4 billion.

A separate enhanced TUPAD is being finalized as a component of the post-COVID recovery package prepared by the labor department. The program involves a three-month employment scheme for informal workers who will take advantage of the Balik Probinsya program.