Saturday, 24 January 2009

Philippines prioritizes emergency jobs creation in regions

By GENALYN D. KABILING
The Manila Bulletin
http://www.mb.com.ph/MAIN20090124146470.html

President Arroyo yesterday directed the Cabinet to accelerate its emergency employment programs across the country amid reports of domestic job losses as a result of the global financial meltdown.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said yesterday the President has assigned Cabinet members to specific regions where they should provide livelihood assistance and emergency jobs this year.

The emergency jobs for the poor and out-of-school youth include road maintenance, school rehabilitation, irrigation repairs, and organic farming activity, sea and forest patrols, among others.

The government plans to create 1.5 million jobs by June 30, 2009 and for another 1.5 million by the end of the year, or a total of three million jobs for the year.

"We have alerted the Cabinet members to be ready with certain measures to absorb these people who will be losing jobs so they’ll be given alternative undertakings, so they will have their own jobs," Ermita said.

On top of the emergency employment program, Ermita said the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) has readied contingency measures for Filipino workers who may lose their jobs abroad. The Philippine Economic Zone Authority was also mobilized to look into ways to overcome the problem of unemployment in some economic zones, he added.

Last Wednesday, Intel, the world’s biggest computer chip maker, announced plans to close its plants in Malaysia, Philippines, and the United States, resulting in the loss of 1,800 jobs in its assembly test facility in Cavite.

Ermita admitted that the Philippines will likely endure the adverse effects of the global economic slowdown this year, but assured the people that the government has readied measures to mitigate the blow on the people.

Malacanang earlier raised the R300-billion economic resiliency package by another R30 billion to invest in infrastructure projects, job generation, and social protection. The package seeks to boost the economic growth in the face of worldwide credit crunch.

Relatedly, Labor Secretary Marianito Roque yesterday admitted that hundreds of Filipinos are losing their jobs every day as the global economy slows.

Between Dec. 1 and Jan. 19, some 15,600 workers were laid off, he told a local radio.

Over the same period, 19,000 others had their shifts or working hours reduced. ‘’Just for today it was reported to us that 458 people nationwide could lose their jobs,’’ Roque said.

He said most of the job cuts were happening in the electronics sector, which has suffered from plunging global demand. The sector employs 480,000 people and accounts for nearly 70 percent of Philippine exports.

After US chip maker Intel Corp. announced the closure of a chip testing plant near Manila this week with the loss of 1,800 jobs, Roque warned Thursday that up to 60,000 Filipinos could lose their jobs this year, mainly in the electronics and garments industries.

Roque said he did not keep comparative figures for previous years, but stressed: ‘’This is not normal. This is not business as usual.’’

He however stressed that jobs are still being created in the Philippines, citing 600 new hires reported Thursday in the Calabarzon industrial belt south of Manila, where most of the electronics jobs had been lost. ‘’These are mainly manufacturing jobs that have no connection to the electronics sector.’’

Meanwhile, as a result of OFWs repatriated from war-torn Israel, the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) is considering to set up help-desks at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) for traumatized Filipino migrants

PNRC chairman Sen. Richard J. Gordon said yesterday they are moving to assist Filipino repatriates not only from Israel but from other troubled areas in the globe. "The number of Filipinos being repatriated from Israel is increasing. And they need various assistance once they arrived at the NAIA, hence we are thinking of putting up help desks at the airport not only for those being repatriated from Israel but also from other countries," he said.

"The PNRC is here to give assistance to our countrymen who are in need. Wherever there are calamities and disasters in our country, we are there to lend a helping hand. And this is also a disaster that has badly affected our countrymen in Israel," he added.

Gordon said the helpdesk to be put up would offer assistance such as psychosocial support, critical incident stress debriefing and answer inquiries on welfare related concerns, among others. (with reports by Ronniel C. de Guzman, AFP)

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