Sectoral leaders: Digital shift, vaccines for economic frontliners key to reviving economy

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 01 2021 05:13 PM | Updated as of May 01 2021 08:29 PM

Sectoral leaders: Digital shift, vaccines for economic frontliners key to reviving economy 1
A worker arranges buri fiber to be dried under the sun along East Bank road in Pasig City on January 30, 2021. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA (UPDATE) — Sectoral leaders on Saturday said digital technology and COVID-19 vaccination are key in reviving the pandemic-battered economy.

In a webinar jointly organized by the National Employment Recovery Strategy (NERS) task force and Task Group on Economic Recovery (TGER), Rep. Raymond Mendoza of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines said improving employees' skills relevant to the digital economy would help them adapt to the new normal as the health crisis drags on. 

Mendoza said that aside from gradually restarting economic activities, retooling the workplace and "modernizing" the country's information and communications technology infrastructure are important to "boost integration to digital economy." 

This includes improving the country's internet and communications services for better connectivity, he said. 

Amb. Benedicto Yujuico, president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) echoed the lawmaker and emphasized that industries should shift to digital systems.

Yujuico pointed out "the need to upgrade and retool" the country's workforce to match the industry's needs amid the pandemic. 

"The necessary shift to digitalization... revealed the constraints of businesses on acquiring and applying for resources, tools, and knowledge for digitalization due to the lack of electronic devices, reliable internet access, and [lack of] digital literacy among others," Yujuico said. 

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Restarting economic activities through revitalizing domestic demand and business activities, he added, must also be coupled by "accelerated" COVID-19 vaccine rollout among economic frontliners and recognizing industry workers as essential workers. 

"The government vaccination program must be implemented faster and more efficiently, with simultaneous rollout of effective promotion and proper education on vaccines," his presentation read. 

The PCCI president also urged the government to allow the private sector to procure and distribute vaccines. 

At present, Philippine authorities are not allowing the distribution of COVID-19 jabs in the private sector. 

Inoculation czar Carlito Galvez, Jr. earlier said the private sector and local government units could only purchase COVID-19 vaccines through a tripartite agreement with the national government so that coronavirus shots won't be "commercialized". 

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III earlier said 5,000 workers would be inoculated against the virus on Saturday. The vaccine recipients include minimum wage and overseas Filipino workers, and those in other sectors that belong in the A4 vaccination group, he said. 

The A4 priority group refers to frontliners of essential sectors. These include market vendors, supermarket and food retail workers, and other workers who are required to interact with the public due to their work.

Bello earlier in the year also said the government is hoping to provide jobs to at least 3.5 million Filipinos this year to stimulate the economy battered by the health crisis. 

Unemployment rate rose to 8.8 percent in February from 8.7 percent in January, which translates to 4.2 million jobless Filipinos as the pandemic persisted, the Philippine Statistics Authority earlier said. 

In January, 4 million Filipinos were jobless despite the easing in COVID-19 restrictions.

The country is still battling a new surge of COVID-19 infections, with some parts of the Philippines, including the capital region and surrounding provinces Rizal, Laguna, Bulacan, and Cavite, placed under the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) until mid-May to stem the virus' growth.