By Mary Catherine Ynez U. Lavega

Antiqueño sacadas will return to work in sugarcane plantations as local government units from the Province of Antique, Province of Negros and the Department of the Labor and Employment Region-VI (DOLE-VI) set out a list of guidelines. The guidelines are to be followed both by the sacadas as well as the sugarcane planters before they can resume their normal operations in the midst of the pandemic.Starting from April 1,529 sacada workers were assisted by the local government to return to Antique from Negros Occidental when the lockdown was commenced nationwide. These workers now plan to go back to work for crop year 2020-2021.A meeting was held at The Venue in Funda Dalipe, San Jose today, August 19, 2020 to discuss the guidelines. In attendance were the Provincial Planning and Development Office, 55 miller supervisors and DOLE-Antique Provincial Director Melissa Navarra. Present at the meeting via Zoom from was Atty. Dino Yulo from the Sugar Planters Administration; Agnes N. Capigon, head of DOLE-Negros Occidental; Dr. Zephard Caelian, head of Negros PDRRMO; and Atty. Divine Grace Gabunas, chief of Technical Services and Support Division of DOLE-VI. Last August 11 Governor Rhodora “Dodod” Cadiao released Memorandum Order No. 68 detailing the “Guidelines for Transporting Sacada Migrant Workers in the Province of Antique”. The said guideline required miller representatives to submit an updated list of sacada per area in order for the Certificate of Acceptance from Negros Occidental and a valid ID from the Office of the Governor. These are two of the most important requirements as Negros Occidental strictly follows a “No ID, No Entry” policy.Miller representatives should also submit to DOLE a copy of each sacadas’ birth certificate, Mayor’s Permit, PNP Clearance, and Medical Certificate duly signed by a government or private physician, and Certfication from Municipal PESO for the issuance of Authority to Transport Sacada.Negros Occidental Governor. Eugenio Jose V. Lacson, also signed a memorandum last August 6 in preparation for their return to work. Gov. Lacson required each sacada to undergo RT-PCR test upon arrival in Negros Occidental and then quarantined until their tests come back negative and not show any symptom. The RT-PCR tests will be shouldered by PhilHealth if the sacadas are members. For non-members, a fee of P1, 500 will be paid by the sugarcane plantation planters.To ensure the safety and health of the sacadas, DOLE Undersecretary Atty. Ana C. Dione issued a memorandum on “Additional Guidelines in the Hiring, Transportation, and Employment of Migrant Sugar Workers (MSWs) or Sacada to Control and Avoid the Spread of the COVID-19 Disease”. In the memorandum, qualified workers should not be below 21 years old or more than 60 years old; workers with immunodeficiency, co-morbidity, or other health risks (ex. hypertension, nt diabetes, asthma) are not allowed, per DOH guidelines “unless amended or modified by subsequent issuances or resolutions by the Department of Health (DOH) or the Covid-19 Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF)”.DOLE will also make sure that temporary dwelling facilities are adequate in housing the returning workers. Dwelling facilities should only house 50% of its original maximum occupancy with barracks following the physical distancing measures such as a meter-long distance between each bunk bed.A designated isolation area is also required if workers feel unwell or manifest Covid-19 symptoms. Additionally, employers are expected to provide disinfectants and six (6) washable face masks to each worker per month (of at least 2-ply or layers), free of charge. A first aid kit in each barrack as well as a personnel trained in first aid should be present for every shift.These guidelines should be strictly followed by the employers and a DOLE field officer will be monitoring them each month.“Nagapasalamat guid ako kay Gov. Cadiao sa pagturo pahanugod nga kami mga sacada makabalik sa Negros. Tungod nga isara diya ka pangabuy-an kang Antiqueño ang panakada”, said Emmanuelle Tamayo, one of the attendees of the said meeting and milling representative for the Sacada Association in Antique. Tamayo is one of the sacadas set out to go back to work in Negros Occidental .