SSS to survive tough times – Neri

Published by rudy Date posted on February 1, 2009

While massive job layoffs could hurt the Social Security System (SSS), its financial muscle is strong enough to make the private pension fund withstand shocks “for the next five to 10 years,” its president and chief executive officer Romulo Neri said yesterday.

“We have enough reserves. We can last. We don’t need to worry for the next five to 10 years,” Neri told The STAR in a phone interview.

“Any job loss will affect our contributions. It will affect us. It would be bad not only for the SSS but for the entire country,” he said.

Neri said the SSS is even ready to help in the Arroyo administration’s pump-priming effort and that it’s putting up P12.5 billion as its share in the P100-billion economic stimulus fund the government hopes to raise with the private sector, represented by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“The whole idea of pump priming is to avoid job losses,” Neri said.

The SSS, he said, would benefit from the stimulus package in two ways – interest earnings from the P12.5 billion because it would be treated as loan, and more jobs to be generated by the infrastructure projects.

“The money will come back to us. The government will be paying us back. It will be a government-to-government loan wherein we will earn interest,” Neri said.

“We hope to stem these job losses. We’re pitching in together,” he said.

“It’s an investment. That’s not only to get returns. It’s good for the country; we’re helping create employment,” he said in justifying the contribution.

Neri explained that the P100 billion will mostly fund priority infrastructure projects of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

“These will generate revenues and create employment,” said Neri, a former NEDA director general.

Online job hunting

The Department of Labor and Employment advised displaced workers to register with the Phil-jobnet system (www.phil-job.net) or at www.dole.gov.ph so they could be alerted to job openings.

“It is a convenient and readily available job search service provided by DOLE locally and globally in the World Wide Web or the Internet on a continuous 24/7 basis,” Labor Secretary Marianito Roque said.

The system is available at special kiosks in strategic locations nationwide like shopping malls and local government offices.

Bureau of Local Employment (BLE) director Criselda Sy said such workstations are available in public employment service offices or PESO networks among local government units.

“PESO personnel can assist and orient users in accessing and availing themselves of the services of the Phil-Jobnet system in such workstations,” Sy said.

Citing reports of BLE, Roque said there are some 46,300 job vacancies in various industries posted on the website.

Figure unbelievable

A job recruitment expert said the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) should justify its claim of having deployed 1.37 million Filipino workers overseas in 2008.

Emmanuel Geslani, consultant to recruiters, said the figure is “just unbelievable” as it reflects a discrepancy of 260,000.

He said the POEA actually dispatched only some 1.11 million OFWs last year.

“The latest announcement of 1.37 million really shocks the industry,” he said in a statement. The discrepancy was observed in the deployment record for the months of November and December.

“Vacationing workers who started to arrive in October till December make up the large bulk of the re-hires counted by POEA as deployed. There is no difference with the ‘balik-manggagawa’ (returning worker) section of the POEA if the worker is on vacation or renewing a contract,” he said.

Geslani added the POEA must also present a breakdown of new hires, re-hires and sea-based workers processed in 2008.

Intrinsically flawed’

Meanwhile, militant labor group Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) described yesterday as “intrinsically flawed” the action plan drafted by the multisectoral Conference on Global Financial Crisis organized by DOLE.

PM chairman Renato Magtubo said the plans are “skewed to the point that it is aimed to bail out the capitalists instead of saving the workers from the effects of the crisis.”

“It is the workers who need life vests from government not the capitalists who have their own yachts in the face of the global economic storm,” he said in a statement.

The labor department organized the conference last week in an effort to thresh out ways of helping the country weather the effect of the global crisis.

PM finds the action plan “heavy on reducing the cost of doing business for the capitalists but silent on lowering the cost of living for the workers.”

“There were proposals on tax cuts for businesses but none on a tax refund for workers. Calling on the people to patronize local products is inutile unless we raise the purchasing power of the workers and the poor,” Magtubo said.

He said a part of the action plan that is focused on workers “is just more of the same – income augmentation and worker retraining.”

“Yet previous retraining programs are failures. The action plan disregards the proposal that retraining be complemented by a subsidy so that the displaced workers are not distracted by concern over their families’ daily survival and can concentrate on learning new skills for their future work,” Magtubo said. – Rainier Allan Ronda with Delon Porcalla and Sheila Crisostomo, Philippine Star

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