Senate presses Labor dep’t for clear strategy to tackle worker, OFW displacement


SENATORS said Thursday that the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) needs a “real, concrete” strategy to deal with workers displaced by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Senator Emmanuel Joel J. Villanueva and Imelda Josefa R. Marcos said DoLE should draft a plan that goes beyond its emergency response measures, such as the COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program and AKAP para sa OFW (overseas Filipino worker).

“At the end of the day, we need a real, concrete employment recovery plan that relies on employment facilitation, support to MSMEs (micro, small, and medium enterprises), real sustainable livelihood programs,” Mr. Villanueva, the Finance Committee Vice-Chairman, said during DoLE’s budget hearing.

The panel was tackling the department’s P27.53-billion budget for 2021, which is up 53.7%. The budget’s components include P3.53 billion for the Office of the Secretary and P5.81 billion for the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.

Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III said the department continues to implement long-term employment programs such as the Special Program for Employment of Students (SPES). The 2021 spending plan will allocate P605.7 million to the program.

The department also cited the Integrated Livelihood Program with P809 million in funding and the Government Internship Program among other short-term livelihood programs, which have P9.938 billion in funding overall.

Ms. Marcos, however, said the department needs to come up with a plan designed specifically for the pandemic job losses.

“I am familiar with SPES and all other programs you have, but it’s very much business as usual,” she said.

“The unemployment crisis that has come out of the pandemic is not business as usual. We need to have new plans, new programs.”

Unemployment and underemployment are respectively at 10.4% and 17.3%, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority. On top of this, the labor department reported some 224,700 overseas Filipino workers have been repatriated over the course of the pandemic.

In response, DoLE’s Bureau of Local Employment (BLE) said it is seeking to develop with the National Economic and Development Authority an employment recovery program.

“Our contribution is the updating of the labor market information,” BLE Director Dominique Rubia-Tutay said.

“Kailangan ma-identify ‘yung mga (We need to identify the) key employment generating sectors… in the new normal, and given the challenges we have.”

She noted the information gathered has been sent to the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, Commission on Higher Education, and the Department of Education. — Charmaine A. Tadalan

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