Sen. Francis Pangilinan and Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada are calling on Malacañang and Congress to hold a summit with the business sector to discuss ways and means to create more jobs in the country in the midst of an impending global financial crisis.
This, even as Malacañang expressed hope that Congress would heed President Arroyo’s call to set aside politics and instead work with her to address the challenges facing the nation.
Pangilinan said both the executive and legislative should join hands in fast-tracking measures that would create more jobs domestically in the face of massive layoffs of Filipino workers abroad.
“Instead of talking Charter Change and term extensions, both Malacañang and Congress should be more preoccupied in devising means of creating job opportunities for those OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) who will lose their jobs,” Pangilinan said.
The senator is looking at promoting and increasing government support for the small and medium enterprises particularly in the rural areas.
He said government should expand credit access so that Filipino overseas workers coming home would instead engage in putting up their small businesses rather than waiting for job opportunities outside the country.
Government should also look into trainings on how the Filipinos can earn income through the use of technology especially with the widening use of the Internet worldwide, he said.
“We should hit the ground running in 2009 by putting our heads together to avert a rapid increase in our unemployment rate. I challenge the new Senate leadership to lead the call for a job creation summit that will involve Malacañang, the Senate and House of Representatives, business leaders and civil society,” Pangilinan said.
Estrada, chairman of the Senate committee on labor and employment, noted the admission by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) that the layoff trend was on the rise as some 946 OFWs were reportedly retrenched from Taiwan’s manufacturing industry; 75 from Western Australia’s ship building industry; 300 from the casino-hotel industry of Macau, almost a hundred from the hotel industry of Italy; and 200 Filipino seafarers from different foreign vessels.
Independent accounts, particularly from the Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM) and Migrante International, showed that the number of OFWs displaced due to the crisis had actually reached thousands already.
There are apprehensions that so many others among the more than eight million Filipino workers abroad might be laid off in the next weeks after more and more foreign companies announced planned cutbacks on number of employees.
“This is a very serious situation however the government tries to downplay it. We are faced with a scenario where hundreds of thousands of overseas-based Filipinos might be forced to return to the country where they might not be able to find jobs either,” Estrada lamented.
He said the situation was not as hopeless as it seemed, citing the availability of hundreds of thousands of jobs in several other foreign and local industries, provided that Filipino workers would acquire the skills needed by such industries, and that the government would directly assist in the workers’ training or re-training and employment-matching.
Malacañang, for its part, has acknowledged that this year would be more challenging than 2008 but at the same time expressed confidence that the country is in a better position to weather the storm than most of the world.
Press Secretary Jesus Dureza cited the report of Bloomberg financial news service supposedly citing the Philippines and China as the two most resilient economies in Asia amidst the global financial crisis.
Dureza said it was encouraging to hear this bit of news indicating that the Philippines was able to keep its currency and fiscal position strong in spite of the impacts of the prolonged global economic crisis.
“The Philippines and China were being cited as the two Asian economies that fared best in 2008 and that will do well in 2009,” Dureza said.
“Undeniably, this is the result of the economic reforms instituted by the President early on,” he added.
Economists, including Finance Secretary Margarito Teves, have indicated that the larger impact of the global crisis would be felt in the Philippines this year as business activities are expected to slow down.
Dureza along with Presidential Management Staff director general Cerge Remonde, in separate statements, noted that the government has undertaken several measures to prepare the nation for the tough challenges expected this year.
Remonde, in an interview over dzRB, noted that the government has prepared a contingency plan for this, which generally involves pump priming the economy.
He cited the order of the President for all the members of the Cabinet to come up with their respective emergency livelihood programs across the nation as part of the internal job generation efforts.
The President has also ordered an increase in spending for infrastructure projects, specifically those that could be completed faster so that the funds of the government would be spent more efficiently.
The DOLE has also started looking for new job markets overseas where the laid off OFWs and the new job seekers would be accommodated.
Remonde noted that the DOLE is looking at the countries that were relatively unaffected by the global financial crisis such as those in the oil-rich Middle East.
Too much politics
However, he acknowledged that it would be asking much for the President’s critics in the Senate and the House to work with her considering that since she assumed office in 2001, there has been no respite in the efforts to unseat her.
“This is the tragedy of our nation in terms of development, too much politicking,” Remonde said in Filipino.
He said that the Palace aspires for its critics in Congress to end their probes against the President and just focus on legislation that would benefit the people.
“We leave it to their collective wisdom and responsibility of the leadership but we do hope that we can work together especially in 2009 better because of the global economic crisis that we have to contend with,” he added.
Remonde said he expects political activity to increase this year as the nation prepares for the elections of 2010.
A number of politicians have already declared their bids for the presidency and the smear campaigns that go with it have also started.
He said he expects the President to remain above the political fray and focus on governance just as she did during the past.
“The President has been consistent in trying to stay above partisan politics and focusing on the more important agenda of growing the economy, running the country and of course pursuing good governance,” he said.
“So while the political heat goes up in 2009, I am sure the President will still be consistent in trying to be insulated from it so that she can focus more on good governance and the more imperative agenda of the nation, protecting the nation from the global crisis,” he added.
Just like in previous years, the Senate, in particular, has been criticized for its penchant for probes against the President and her administration.
Allies of the administration have noted that the conduct of the probes has made the Senate lose its focus on passing important legislation.
The year 2008 ended with Congress failing to pass the 2009 national budget and the bill extending the life of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program. -– Aurea Calica, Marvin Sy, Philippine Star