PH gov’t urged to prioritize plight of workers in economic recovery plan

Robie de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Joel Villanueva has urged the national government to include the welfare of workers among its top priorities in creating a recovery plan for the country amid the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Villanueva, who chairs the Senate committee on labor, lamented that in the past few months, workers’ welfare was “glossed over” in the policies and programs implemented by the government.

“The tough economic climate is already punishing workers with layoffs left and right. How do we expect our people to provide for their families if they are jobless? Our government cannot simply look away from their plight, and keep on overlooking their condition,” he said in a statement on Monday.

“We urge our policymakers to consider the welfare of workers as they draw up the economic recovery plan of our country. After all, it is our workers who will fuel the engines of our economy,” he added.

Villanueva said that despite the implementation of emergency employment programs, “a significant portion of workers were still not a able to receive any form of assistance from the government.

He said only about 657,000 workers of the 2.6 million workers in the formal sector reported to DOLE received government assistance through the agency’s COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program, which gives a one-time cash assistance of P5,000 per individual.

The senator also said that some 330,000 workers in the informal sector, which is estimated to be over 30 million in 2018, benefitted from the labor department’s cash for work program called Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers.

Villanueva asked the government to pour more funds to programs that would generate employment so that workers have a means to earn a living for their families while the economy picks up its pace.

He also proposed funding scholarship programs for displaced workers and returning overseas Filipino workers at the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, for upskilling and retooling.

“The Senate version of the ‘Bayanihan 2’ bill placed a P1 billion fund for the agency’s scholarships to encourage displaced workers to upgrade their skills to become more employable.

The lawmaker also pointed out while government assistance to businesses was necessary, it must be hinged on their commitment to keeping workers in their ranks.

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