MANILA - Sen. Joel Villanueva on Friday urged the government to restore funding for vocational education scholarships to help upskill displaced workers during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority's (TESDA) P2.3 billion appropriation in the 2020 budget was realigned to fund the government's COVID-19 countermeasures, Villanueva said in a statement.
"Mas mabilis at madali po sana ang pagbangon ng ating mga manggagawang nawalan ng trabaho kung may kakayahan ang TESDA na magbigay ng training para sa mga in-demand na trabaho," said the senator, who served as TESDA director general from 2010 to 2015.
(It would have been faster and easier for displaced workers to regain income if TESDA still had the capacity to provide trainings for in-demand jobs.)
"Kailangan pong maibalik ang pondo ng TESDA upang matulungan ang ating mga manggagawa, lalo na ang mga OFW na nawalan ng hanapbuhay at mga online seller na dumidiskarte sa ating panahon ngayon," he said.
(We need to return the funds to TESDA to help our countrymen, especially displaced OFWs and online sellers who have been trying to find ways to earn a living during these times.)
Villanueva earlier pushed to include a P1-billion budget for scholarship programs under the Bayanihan to Recover as One bill, but the Senate failed to pass the measure on third and final reading before Congress adjourned on June 5, 2020 as President Rodrigo Duterte opted not to certify the bill as urgent.
Villanueva, who now chairs the Senate Committee on Labor and Employment, has been urging economic managers to include workers' upskilling and welfare in the "top 3 priorities" of the government.
"Rather than seeing it as an expense, our government should look at it as an investment for our workers," he said.
"After all, it is our workers who will jumpstart and sustain our economic recovery," he said.
Latest figures from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed that 7.3 million Filipinos were unemployed in April, a record high, as coronavirus restrictions largely shut down the economy.