STO. TOMAS, Pangasinan, Philippines – President Arroyo has ordered economic managers to study the proposal of Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ralph Recto for the government to set up a fund to extend temporary unemployment insurance to workers who lose their jobs, with money to be provided by the Social Security System (SSS) and the national government.
Recto proposed during the Cabinet meeting that P5,000 or P10,000 be given monthly for six months to SSS members who lose their jobs due to the economic crisis.
He said the unemployment insurance would not be expensive because the administration has allocated P10 billion for the conditional cash transfer to the poor.
“If you have P10 billion for conditional cash transfer, for unemployment insurance, assuming 100,000 lose their jobs at P10,000 a month for six months that’s only P6 billion,” Recto told reporters.
“But if you do it at P5,000 a month for six months then that’s 200,000 jobless people benefited,” he said.
Recto and Labor Secretary Marianito Roque, however, stressed that unemployment in the country triggered by the global economic crisis appears to be tapering off.
Recto said that since unemployed SSS members have been paying their taxes and dues to the pension fund, “the job of the government is to show that (it) cares.”
He said the SSS board should begin to deliberate on having a program such as unemployment insurance “because that’s what social security is all about.”
“Like a pension plan, if you have difficulties and you’re unemployed, you get certain benefits from government as well. This is just temporary so that they would look for work and not become lazy,” he said.
The President has also set up a monitoring system to keep close track of international developments as well as the government’s programs to make sure the country will not slip into recession.
Mrs. Arroyo said the Global Recession Impact Monitor (GRIM) was put up to make sure that the country’s growth would continue even if the global economic crisis continues to deepen.
“We have to keep close watch on the impact of global recession to make sure that the global recession would not become a Philippine recession,” she said in a radio interview prior to the Cabinet meeting at the residence of Presidential Anti-Smuggling Group chief Antonio Villar here.
“Two-thirds of the world is in recession and so far the Philippines is not. That’s what we’re avoiding,” she said.
Recto said the GRIM is a bi-weekly monitoring and meeting by economic managers where the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) makes presentations on global economic developments.
The GRIM would immediately make assessments on the impact of such international developments for quick response.
“We keep track (of the international developments) but what’s more important is to monitor our own departments and agencies, that they deliver on their targets and commitments as far as (the P330-billion) ERP (Economic Resiliency Program) is concerned,” Recto told reporters.
He said the advantage of GRIM is that “we can fine tune our moves and responses and tweak the ERP as well.”
“Things are not static, things change so we need to make necessary adjustments just like in the US,” Recto said.
Mrs. Arroyo said her administration will continue to focus on the basics in addressing the spillover of the global economic crisis to the Philippines, including creating more jobs, keeping consumer prices stable and extending more direct assistance to the poor.
She said the government will also continue to help the private sector to spur the economy.
She said there are about 41,000 overseas jobs lost to Filipinos but this is miniscule compared to the millions out of work in the US and China.
Mrs. Arroyo reiterated that she has ordered the implementation of emergency employment programs funded from savings of government departments and agencies, which have been ordered to set aside 1.5 percent of their maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE).
‘Reviving bayanihan spirit’
She also appealed to Filipinos, civic groups and other non-government organizations to revive the spirit of volunteerism and undertake “simple initiatives” that would help the country survive the global economic crisis.
Mrs. Arroyo paraphrased the late US President John F. Kennedy’s famous quote that the people ‘should not ask what their country can do for them, but ask what they can do for the country.’
“On the part of the people, this is the time that we should bond and focus our attention on our families and community and we should begin a new era of volunteerism and community spirit,” she said in Filipino during an interview with the state-owned Radyo ng Bayan here.
“The government is with you, the religious and civic groups, the non-government organizations, harnessing our people to engage in coordinated volunteer activities,” she said.
She said Filipinos can focus on “simple initiatives like cleaning up the environment, putting up parks, planting trees.”
She said during these trying times, “the Filipino spirit and commitment of caring should make each one of us (help the less fortunate).”
Mrs. Arroyo said the people can still count their blessings as the Philippines is not experiencing the full-blown economic crisis that other countries like the US are facing.
She said many relatives living abroad can attest to this.
“Our country needs all of us pulling in the same direction so we should volunteer our time, our skills, our resources. That is a noble undertaking that we should all take seriously,” the President said.
Mrs. Arroyo, who is celebrating her birthday next month, said her birthday wish is that for the global crisis “not to become a Philippine crisis and that we are able to continue on our sustainable development towards First World status in 20 years.” –Paolo Romero, Philippine Star