WHILE the nation is observing Environmental Awareness Month, Buhay Hayaang Yumabong (BUHAY) party-list Rep. Lito Atienza on Sunday said he wants Congress to triple the starting pay of the country’s forest rangers and grant them a wide range of new job benefits, including extra wages for working under dangerous conditions.
In House Bill (HB) 2597, Atienza wants to increase the minimum base pay of forest rangers from Salary Grade 4 (P13,807 per month) to Salary Grade 18 (P42,159 per month).
Atienza’s proposed Magna Carta for Forest Rangers also seeks to grant the guardians of the nation’s forest and timber lands new employment benefits, such as:
· Subsistence allowance for three meals per day while in the field, travel time being counted as time in the field;
· Overtime pay of 10 percent and night-shift differential pay of 10 percent;
· Hazard pay consistent with prevailing practices;
· Longevity pay equal to five percent of the monthly basic pay for every five years of continuous service;
· Transportation allowance; and
· Full compensation for work injuries.
“Our forest rangers have endured hard work and low pay. Many of them have even sacrificed lives in the line of duty. They deserve these long-overdue benefits,” Atienza, one-time Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, said.
If Congress can earmark billions of pesos every year to renew our denuded forests, surely we can also provide our rangers highly improved compensation and welfares,” Atienza, former three-term mayor of Manila, said.
Atienza said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is spending another P5.2 billion in 2021 for the National Greening Program.
The program seeks to rehabilitate 150,000 hectares of forests and preserve and protect 318,871 hectares of forests and watersheds.
Atienza’s bill also mandates the creation of enough new positions in the DENR so that the country would have “at least one forest ranger for every 500 hectares of lands classified as forest or timber.”