MANILA, Philippines – The Arroyo administration will not lay off government workers but instead hire tens of thousands of new employees to help stem unemployment in the country triggered by the global economic crisis, Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. said.
Andaya denied reports from militant groups that there will be mass layoffs in government due to its “rationalization plan” and even said the state will be absorbing more employees this year by as much as 60,000 workers.
This is on top of an earlier directive from President Arroyo for government agencies to set aside 1.5 percent of their maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOEs), estimated at P7 billion, to hire 180,000 casual employees for six months, he said.
He said that as it is right now, the government pays P427 billion a year, or roughly P1.17 billion a day for salaries, pensions and premium payments for government workers.
“While the economic crunch had resulted in mass layoffs in the private sector, it is not true in the public sphere. In fact, there is a mass hiring in government. Funds for this purpose have already been earmarked in the 2009 national budget,” he said.
The budget chief said as a matter of fact, the budget of the Department of Education (DepEd) alone allows for the hiring of 10,000 teachers this year and another 2,000 members of the non-teaching personnel of the line department.
“This will bring the number of teaching and non-teaching personnel of the DepEd 506,000,” he said.
He said funds have been earmarked for the hiring of 500 jailguards for the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology as well as the Bureau of Corrections.
Also, around 3,000 policemen will be hired this year to bolster the manpower of the Philippine National Police under the Department of Interior and Local Government.
He said under the recently-announced Nurses Assigned in Rural Areas (NARS) program, another 5,000 nurses will be employed to serve in the barrios and far-flung municipalities.
According to him, around P2 billion in the 2009 budget has been allocated for the government’s reforestation program, which authorizes the hiring of another 40,000 green-collar workers for the purpose and other energy-independent project.
“The funds have already been set aside for these purposes,” he said.
On top of these, Andaya said state colleges and universities are authorized to hire additional academic personnel under their respective charters.
“All of these are aimed at cushioning the effect of the global economic crunch on the private sector, which had no choice but to cut down the number of employees due to the financial slowdown,” he said.
Andaya clarified the plan to abolish redundant positions in government had been advanced not only because of the cost of maintaining such, but to improve service delivery by cutting red tape through systems and organizational changes.
“But I will say this, those affected by the rationalization fund do not include professionals such as policemen, teachers, doctors, nurses, midwives and firemen,” he said.
Andaya said the implementation of the plan will be democratic, consultative and non-coercive, all part of creating a “smarter government.”
“This is our way of repaying the taxpayers with better, efficient government service,” he said.
He disclosed that in the consultations for the implementation of the plan, the accredited employees’ union of the agency will be represented in order to promote efficiency.–Paolo Romero, Philippine Star