10 million jobless in Philippines due to COVID-19 crisis is 'possible,' says labor chief

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 21 2020 06:08 PM | Updated as of May 21 2020 06:39 PM

A streetsweeper at the Cubao commercial center, continues with his job at the Araneta Center Bus Terminal. Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA - Some 5 to 10 million workers could lose their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic and resulting lockdowns, Philippine Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said Thursday. 

At least 2.6 million workers were displaced permanently or temporarily as of May, Bello said in a Senate hearing on the COVID-19 crisis that swept the country of a little over 100 million. 

"Yung (the) 2.6 million, that is the actual number of workers either displaced because of temporary closure or because of the flexible work arrangement. Our estimate is that we may go as high as 5 million," Bello said. 

During a Senate hearing on Wednesday, Senator Ralph Recto asked if it is possible for unemployment in the country to reach 10 million, to which Bello replied, "I hate to say it, but it's possible."

So far, the Department of Labor and Employment has provided 335,000 emergency employment to affected informal workers, and cash aid to over 649,000 formal workers before funds ran short, Bello said. 

The Labor department also initially estimated that some 150,000 overseas Filipino workers would lose their jobs due to the global health crisis. But the approximation has since been raised to 250,000 or even more.

Bello said half a million OFWs have already applied for the one-time assistance of $200 or P10,000 each.

Bello said DOLE had been granted additional funds to cover more beneficiaries of the agency's assistance program. 

The Luzon lockdown implemented on March 17 suspended public transport and non-essential businesses forcing companies to pursue work from home arrangements and has resulted in job loss for some Filipinos. 

Metro Manila remains under modified enhanced community quarantine through May 31, where select businesses are allowed to operate in reduced capacity and under strict health protocols.