Labor wants idle land for workers’ livelihood projects

Published by rudy Date posted on February 2, 2009

The country’s biggest labor group yesterday urged the government to make available its non-performing assets for the use of 500,000 Filipino workers who have been laid off or about to lose their jobs in the wake of the global financial crisis.

The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines said the National Economic and Development Authority should conduct an immediate inventory of these idle assets, such as vacant buildings and offices, owned by the government directly or through a corporation.

“If these non-performing assets are fully utilized, we can in some ways extend help to Filipino workers who have been unexpectedly sidelined due to the financial crisis,” Ernesto Herrera, group secretary- general, said in a statement.

The group will take the lead in mobilizing those unemployed to make the idle assets gainful, whether these can be public lands that can be used to grow food, or vacant buildings that can be used to support a business process outsourcing center.

The Neda should ascertain those assets that are immediately useful, and then prepare a list of ways to make them productive, the group head said as he assured that the labor sector will do its share to realize the plan.

“We will tap local unions and credit cooperatives to make full use of the NPAs. In the process, we can provide gainful employment to the jobless while producing valuable goods and services,” Herrera said.

Meanwhile, the labor group warned that the country risks going into a deeper economic slump as a result of the loss of jobs nationwide.

“We are now in an extremely vicious cycle. The economic slowdown is causing mass layoffs of workers everywhere. The layoffs in turn will have the effect of pulling the economy farther down because of the forfeited income and lost consumption,” Herrera said.

The TUCP said the country could easily incur at least P200 billion in economic losses because of the pervasive lay-offs and a considerable decline in exports this year.

“This estimate assumes that exports will fall at a rate of at least $250 million every month, or a cumulative of $3 billion for the whole 12 months this year,” he said.

The $3 billion in lost exports is equal to P141 billion at $1:P47.

“This is a very conservative estimate, because in October and November 2008 alone, we already lost more than $1 billion worth of exports, or $500 million monthly,” Herrera said.

The country lost $1.18 billion worth of exports from October to November 2008 compared to the same two-month period in 2007. The electronics sector—the country’s biggest exporter—absorbed much of the foregone sales at $960 million over the two-month period.

Labor Secretary Marianito Roque could not be reached.– Arlie Calalo, Manila Standard Today

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