Hontiveros: Gov’t should be “Both employer and income provider” to help Ph navigate through deflating economy

“Parehong bigyan ng salbabida ang mga manggagawa at pribadong kumpanya. Gobyerno na mismo ang dapat magbigay ng trabaho sa mga Pilipino.”

This, according to Senator Risa Hontiveros who urged the government to take a more aggressive role of being both an “employer” and an “income provider” as the private sector-led recovery is taking more time and leaving the most vulnerable at the mercy of plunging economy.

Through public employment programs (PEPs), Hontiveros said that jobs and income support will be provided to Filipinos to help cushion the effect of income loss and escalating prices of goods and services brought about by the pandemic.

“Hindi na lang dapat kagyat na ayuda ang kailangan, kundi kasabay nito ay magkaroon din ng isang malawakang trabaho sa pamamagitan ng PEP o di kaya employment guarantee schemes (EGS) para patuloy na may sweldo na pwedeng gastusin,” she said.

“Pwedeng pagsimulan ang Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers o TUPAD ng Department of Labor and Employment. Palawakin pa ang sampung araw na temporary wage employment para mas marami pa itong matulungan,” she added.

Hontiveros explained that in the context of the current COVID-19 crisis, aggressive PEPs, apart from the conventional public works, can be utilized as a ‘strategy for recovery’ to augment front line services essential to pandemic response in communities.

“We can mobilize more workers to assist in contact tracing, provide support to persons vulnerable to COVID-19, such as the elderly, persons with disabilities (PWDs) or chronic health problems, those who are sick at home or recovering, and persons in quarantine… as well as strengthening essential services such as waste collection, public sanitation and other facilities,” she said.

The Senator stressed that the government can learn from the experiences of countries like South Africa, India and Argentina where minimum wage jobs are guaranteed for the unemployed with required hours of work and specific time frame.

She added that PEPs are more than just a means to convey incomes to the unemployed but also about creating productive assets.

“Workers are the drivers of our economy. Madidiskaril ang ating byahe patungo sa pagbangon ng ekonomiya kung hindi tayo magbibigay ng oportunidad sa mga nawalan ng trabaho,” she emphasized.

The senator’s statement comes as the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) released its report on the country’s economic performance for 2020, showing a deep contraction of 9.5%.

One of the main factors for this sharp decline in GDP is the -5.7 decline in household consumption.

The labor department also reported over 5 million displaced workers last year, with mass layoffs having occurred more during the fourth quarter.

“Kailangang maibalik ang nawalang kapasidad sa konsumo ng pamilyang Pilipino, at magagawa lang ito kapag may trabaho ang isa o dalawa sa mga miyembro nito. Tayo ay nagtatrabaho para sa taumbayan, ngayong nawalan sila ng kabuhayan, tayo naman ang magbigay nito sa kanila. Government as employer & income provider must help the country navigate along an economic roadmap,” she concluded.