DOST study backs hazard pay for MMDA enforcers
MANILA, Philippines — At age 37, Dennis Jimenez was diagnosed with hypertension, three years after he started working as a traffic constable for the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA).
Two years later, Jimenez still mans traffic on Edsa for which he earns P417 a day as a job-order worker.
“I set aside at least P500 per month from my take-home pay for my maintenance medicine and another P500 for vitamins so I don’t get sick,” he told the Inquirer on Tuesday. Having a hazard pay, he said, would be a welcome addition.
A recent study funded by the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Health Research and Development has urged the national government to give MMDA traffic constables occupational hazard compensation.
Led by Balik Scientist Dr. Emmanuel Baja of the National Institutes of Health of the Philippine General Hospital, the study assessed the cardiopulmonary health of 158 MMDA personnel assigned to Edsa from 5 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Its results showed that exposure to increasing ambient black carbon — the sooty black material emitted by car engines — may increase systolic blood pressure, especially among women.
The presence of black carbon was also found to decrease lung function among enforcers who were “obese, nonsmokers or men.”
Lead found in blood
The study likewise revealed that lead, a toxic chemical added to gasoline to increase the octane rating, was found in their blood. The condition might be associated with increased C-reactive protein (CRP).
The protein is made by the liver and sent to the bloodstream in case of inflammation. High levels of CRP can be a sign of a disorder, including heart disease.
Baja noted that the study “provided additional evidence that heavy metal or black carbon via the inflammation pathway may be a factor in heart damage of traffic enforcers.”
“This evidence-based research could help them ask for certain compensation from the Department of Budget and Management and local government units,” he said.
Reached for comment, MMDA chair Danilo Lim welcomed the results of Baja’s study. After Lim’s appointment in 2017, he lobbied before Congress for a P6,000 hazard pay on top of a salary increase for his men to discourage corruption.
Quezon City Rep. Winnie Castelo, chair of the House committee on Metro Manila development, filed a bill mandating a hazard pay equivalent to at least 20 percent of the basic salary of MMDA traffic constables. But the proposal has yet to be approved.
Lim said that only regular MMDA employees were entitled to medicine and insurance support. Most of the agency’s over 2,300 traffic constables, however, are casual and job-order workers.
Aside from health-related illnesses, they also face the risk of being struck by vehicles or mauled by angry drivers flagged down for traffic violations.
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