House lawmakers say joblessness could 'worsen' with fresh ECQ in NCR

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 03 2021 05:11 PM

House lawmakers say joblessness could 'worsen' with fresh ECQ in NCR 1
Members of militant labor group Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) stage a protest in front of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) headquarters in Manila on July 23, 2021. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - House lawmakers on Tuesday criticized President Rodrigo Duterte's administration for the worsening joblessness in the country, and feared that the reintroduction of stricter lockdowns in the capital region would make matters worse.

The Philippine Statistics Authority earlier in the day said while unemployment remained at 7.7 percent in June, the number of jobless Filipinos was higher at 3.76 million, compared to 3.73 million in May. 

Aside from this, the underemployment rate also climbed to 14.2 percent in June. This meant that there were 6.41 million Filipinos who found work but were still looking for more work.

This was why House Deputy Minority leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate believed that the current rate "will worsen before it gets better" due to the reimposition of tougher lockdowns in Metro Manila, home to 13 million people. 

Philippine authorities have placed the capital region under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) on Aug. 6 to Aug. 20 to curb the spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant. 

"The job problem will definitely increase even more by at least 167,000 more due to the ECQ in August. Our people will be in for more hardships even if the administration underestimates it," said Zarate. 

"This is a very lamentable situation - [Filipinos] may yet again have to fend for themselves, especially the workers. Ika nga ni Pres.Duterte, bahala kayo sa buhay nyo," said the Davao-based solon. 

(Just like what Duterte said, everything is up to us)

Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite described the development as an effect of Duterte's "dismal leadership." 

"Palpak talaga sa napakaraming aspeto. Kaya naman walang naipagmalaki ang Pangulo nung SONA sa usapin ng labor sector," Gaite noted.

(They failed in main aspects, this was why Duterte did not boast about his achievements in the labor sector during his last SONA)

The lawmaker added that while some Filipinos were able to find jobs, they were supposedly forced to endure their low salaries, noting that the quality of work in the country also declined.

"The number of full-time workers also dropped to just around 25 million, while part-timers now number to around 17 million. Lumobo talaga ang bilang ng informally employed. Maraming walang trabaho, at yung may trabaho nama'y nagtitiis sa iregular at mababang kita." 

(The number of those informally employed soared. A lot of people were jobless, while those who are employed are enduring low wages.)

House Ways and Means Committee Chair Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Salceda echoed their sentiments. 

For Salceda, the joblessness rate demonstrates the fragility in the country's job gains, and a certain susceptibility to lockdowns.

“I expect some losses in these jobs during the ECQ."

AYUDA, VACCINATION DURING ECQ

Salceda added that lockdowns are not the only approach to dealing with surging COVID-19 infections. 

“They are no longer the best approach at this stage of the pandemic. I urge caution when determining the quarantine regime. More jabs will save jobs," he said. 

"The expiration of Bayanihan 2 also took its toll, as the government jobs sector lost 98,000 jobs. In other words, our national COVID-19 policies will continue to have a very direct role in the job security of hundreds of thousands of Filipinos."

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Despite this, however, Salceda maintained that the country’s economy is recovering, adding that the government's vaccination program continued to be the most important element in the job recovery plan.

Zarate also reiterated his call for more "ayuda" or cash aid to those whose livelihood will be affected by the lockdown.

This, he said, could be sourced from some items in the 2022 budget such as the following: 

  • Duterte administration's savings based on National Budget Circular No. 586
  • P4.5 billion presidential confidential and intelligence funds
  • NTF-ELCAC funds
  • Unprogrammed funds or "presidential pork" under Support for Infrastucture and Social Programs at P27 billion (2021), P10 billion (2020), P8 billion (2019). 

"As can be seen, there can be a lot of fund sources for Bayanihan 3 as aid for our people. But why is the Duterte administration taking their sweet time to allot these funds to our people who need it more? Where is the sense of urgency?" Zarate asked.

- RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News