“The sad plight of freelance artists has been made more manifest by the COVID-19 pandemic. Kawawa po kami talaga," said musician Pope Operaña, president of the Dagupan Musicians' Organization.
"This pandemic has rendered us jobless and we have no one to turn to."
Freelancers and gig workers cannot rely on the existing labor laws for protection as these do not apply to them due to the nature of their work.
Pangasinan Rep. Christopher De Venecia reiterated his call to help freelance workers “who have been overlooked for the longest time in the country.”
“The outbreak of the pandemic and the subsequent enhanced community quarantine only exacerbated the already deplorable conditions of members of the gig-economy,” De Venecia said.
Even before the onset of the pandemic, De Venecia already filed House Bill No. 3951 or the Freelance Protection Act that seeks to provide hazard pay and night-shift differential to freelance artists.
“These freelancers, whether in music production, film, photography, visual arts, fashion, culinary arts, television, animation, literary arts, jewelry design, and many others, are tireless, passionate, and work incredibly hard to perfect their craft, deliver on their commitments to their clients with utmost professionalism, and strive so hard to make ends meet for themselves and their families. They go from paycheck to paycheck and have managed to survive before the ECQ, percolating concentric, complex, and hyphenated industries that power our creative economy,” he said.
To underscore the weight of their contribution in the country’s economy, De Venecia cited a survey conducted by the League of Event & Activation Agencies of the Philippines (LEAP) which showed that last year, the live events sector that stages corporate and lifestyle events, media launches, concert production, conventions and expos, and fashion and sporting events, has contributed an estimated P97 billion to an overall total of P200 billion generated by the so-called creative economy.
“The Film Development Council of the Philippines also noted that the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines estimated the income generated by creative industries (both core and non-core copyright-based) is at P689 billion. The cinema sector alone, according to FDCP Chairperson Liza Diño Seguerra, generated approximately P11.5 billion in gross box office revenues, while P3.65 billion was generated in audiovisual and related services in 2018,” he said.
A survey conducted by NEDA and the Department of Finance on MSMEs showed that the arts, entertainment, and recreation sector is the hardest hit in terms of revenue loss, with an average loss of 82.3% in terms of sales.
In terms of job loss, it is the sixth hardest hit sector, with 39,446 jobs lost, according to the same survey.
“After this pandemic, we have a unique opportunity to recreate society with business 'unusual' – a society where our knowledge economy, our freelancers, and our creative industries are finally at the forefront,” De Venecia said.
De Venecia himself is a freelance theater director and Managing Artistic Director for The Sandbox Collective as well as vice president of Philstage, an alliance of professional companies in the theatrical arts.
He is the grandson of Doc Jose Perez, producer and starbuilder of Sampaguita Pictures, the country’s most illustrious film company during the “golden age” of Philippine cinema.