Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Philippine infra projects expected to open 500,000 jobs

By Angie Chui
The Manila Bulletin

More than 500,000 jobs will be opened to skilled and unskilled workers in the construction industry starting this month as the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) sets to bid out over 4,000 projects with its P108 billion capital outlay for infrastructure this year, officials said yesterday.

In an interview, DPWH Undersecretary Ramon Aquino said Public Works Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. has already ordered to fasttrack this month the biddings for P60-billion worth of projects set for implementation in the first half of the year.

Aquino said the first semester projects translate to 1,209 contracts that should be awarded by the end of the month, which is expected to generate jobs at a time when economies are in recession and firms are downsizing their workforce to stay afloat.

He said the department will hold job fairs starting Monday, February 23, in DPWH district and regional offices in time for the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement among the National Constructors Association of the Philippines (NACAP), Philippine Contractors Association (PCA) and the Department of Labor and Employment.

The MoA aims to provide skilled and nonskilled workers a chance to secure positions with the contractors, given the need for increased manpower to accomplish the government- awarded contracts.

Aquino said workers hired during the job fairs will work with various construction firms for the duration of their contracts – be they long term or short term. Among the positions open are for masons, carpenters, foremen, heavy equipment operators, surveyors and civil engineers.

"The Secretary ordered to obligate and spend the P60 billion for the first semester of the year to generate more employment," he said. "We are also working with the DoLE to assist in this undertaking.

"They will help match the workers’ capabilities and preference with the best infrastructure project based on the location of the job so that they (workers) may be able to save also on transportation and other costs."

Aquino said the department will act as a conduit for the employment of workers with reputable companies under the NACAP, the umbrella group of small contractors, and PCA, which takes charge of major projects.

He assured that the hired personnel will receive at least the minimum wage in their respective areas of designation or possibly more depending on the firms that they will work for.

"Their rights as employees will be protected by the contractor, and they will be given due benefits," Aquino assured.

He added that the law also gives priority to residents of the community as locals should account for 80 percent of total skilled and unskilled workers needed for such projects.

By the second half of the year, Aquino said they will allocate the remaining P48 billion in their capital outlay to sustain the department’s employment generation drive.

From January to December of 2009, the DPWH has in its payroll 27,222 employees under the Task Force OYSTER (Out of School Youths Serving Toward Economic Recovery), in charge of maintaining almost 30,000 kilometers of roads, including shoulder maintenance, traffic management, and drainage service.

Aquino said the OYSTER personnel are hired on a rotation basis, assigned in one department for six months and transferred to another position for their next turn.

In 2007, the department was able to generate over 300,000 jobs while in 2008, job employment jumped to almost 500,000.

Last month, labor officials expressed concern that 200,000 workers are in danger of losing their jobs in the next six months if downsizing in key industries continue.

Based on the latest DoLE figures, 40,000 workers have so far been laid off in the country while 33,548 workers have been given reduced working hours in the companies’ bid to cut costs and overhead. Industries most affected by the economic slowdown are those in the economic zones, semiconductor and export manufacturing sector.

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