MANILA, Philippines – Senator Joel Villanueva on Monday expressed his hope that President Rodrigo Duterte will discuss in his upcoming State of the Nation Address (SONA) the plan of the government in generating jobs for millions of Filipinos who were displaced by the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic as the country continues to fight its spread.
In a statement, Villanueva said that with a record-high unemployment rate of 17.7% or equivalent to 7.3 million based on the April 2020 labor force survey, the president’s address should serve as a guidepost for all agencies to create and implement policies that would lead to the restart of the economy.
It should also pave the way for the smooth reintegration of overseas Filipino workers to the domestic labor force and provide green lanes for Filipino seafarers for the global supply chain, he added.
Duterte is set to deliver his fifth SONA next Monday, July 27.
“Mahalaga po na matalakay ang plano ng ating gobyerno kung paano tutugunan ang problema sa kawalan ng trabaho ngayong pandemya. Habang wala pang bakuna laban sa COVID-19, tuloy pa rin po dapat ang buhay at kailangan maging handa ang bawat isa sa atin na mag-adjust sa new normal,” he said.
Villanueva, chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment, and Human Resource Development, also called on the government to mount epidemiological monitoring and surveillance in places where is high economic activity such as Metro Manila, CALABARZON, and Cebu.
“With epidemiological monitoring, we will be able to track how the disease is spreading and take appropriate measures to contain and stem it to prevent the healthy population from getting infected,” he added.
Villanueva said he shared the observation of Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III who sought the reopening of the said economies in Metro Manila and Region 4A, explaining that about 2/3 of the country’s Gross Domestic Product was generated there.
But Villanueva reiterated that business confidence right now is directly tied to the government’s ability to manage the pandemic well.
“We need to boost the confidence of our businesses to resume their operations and of our workers to come back to work, that is why our government has to step up in preventing the disease from spreading,” he said.
The government should also ensure that repatriated OFWs who lost their jobs abroad are provided enough assistance to start anew, the lawmaker said.
Villanueva cited a report from Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III stating that OFW remittances could drop by up to 40 percent or about US$12 billion this year as a result of massive job losses overseas. In 2019, the central bank reported that OFW remittances reached US$30.13 billion.
Aside from employment generation, the President’s address should also provide concrete measures to ensure the continuity of learning for all learners in the new normal, Villanueva said.
As of July 19, the health department reported that 67,456 persons have been infected with COVID-19, with 43,160 cases listed as active. Recoveries also rose to 22,465 while the death toll is at 1,831.
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