Press Release
September 17, 2006

Malacañang rosy projections on economy worthless
unless 11 million poor Filipinos get decent jobs, says Drilon

Those rosy projections being peddled by Malacañang on how the national economy has improved under President Arroyo are meaningless and worthless unless the supposed benefits are felt by millions of jobless Filipinos, Senate Finance Committee Chairman and former Labor Secretary Sen. Frank Drilon said today.

Drilon said he was dismayed by the report of National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Director General Romulo Neri that while the Gross Domestic Product (GNP) grew by 5.5 in the first quarter of 2006, it failed to have a positive impact on the government's campaign to provide better jobs for the more than 11 million unemployed and underemployed Filipinos.

On questioning by senators, Neri admitted that the country's unemployment rate for the same period remained at a high 11.3 percent and underemployment at 25.4 percent. Neri was at the Senate briefing Tuesday of the Development Budget Coordinating Council (DBCC) on the proposed P1.126 trillion national budget for year 2007 being sought by the President.

The Senate finance committee will start holding public hearings on the proposed 2007 budget next week while waiting for the version officially transmitted by the House of Representatives, Drilon said.

Drilon warned Malacañang against continuing to brag about alleged economic gains of government but at the same time failing to address the unemployment problem in the country. "Notwithstanding all the trumpeted economic gains, we have not improved in the past five years in terms of providing decent employment for our people," said Drilon, who is Liberal Party (LP) president.

Drilon said it was too early to make an assessment on Malacañang 's proposed 2007 budget but said senators would like to look into the specifics of measure such as the improved GDP and its effects on the poor.

"From the DBCC briefing, we can see a respectable GDP growth. However, my impression is that this is what we call a jobless growth," Drilon said. "Our unemployment problem remains at about 11.4 percent on the average for the past five years. That is about 3.3 million Filipinos unemployed every year. The underemployment is worse. It is about 25 percent, or over eight million Filipinos underemployed, " Drilon explained.

"This is over 11 million unemployed and underemployed out of a workforce of 33 million. This is the worst in the Southeast Asia region. We have not improved in the past five years," he added.

"I will ask these questions because I have always suspected that while we have a respectable GDP growth, the benefits have not trickled down to the economic classes C, D, E and the ordinary Juan dela Cruz is asking, 'what does it mean to me? All these good macro economic indicators, what does it mean to me: do I have a job?" Drilon said.

During the DBCC briefing, Drilon asked NEDA Director Romulo Neri: "Would you agree with me that notwithstanding all the gains in the economy that we claimed to have made, our unemployment rate has not changed at all?"

Neri replied that the Arroyo government was now putting emphasis on infrastructure investments to generate employment after focusing on stabilizing the fiscal part of the economy for the first few years.

Drilon cited a report by the Asian Development Bank indicating that unemployment in the Philippines remains at a high 11.4 percent on the average for the past five years followed by Indonesia at 9.4 percent. Thailand is the best performing in the region with 2.3 percent.

The Philippines registered an average unemployment rate of 11.4 percent, the highest among the original members of the Asean region for the period 2001 to 2005, notwithstanding the fact that the Philippines has relied heavily and perhaps for far too long on an implicit labor export policy, the report said.

Drilon noted that the P8 billion Kalayaan and Kilos Asenso funds, which he claimed to be presidential pork barrel, did not appear in the proposed P1.1-trillion national budget for 2007. "That removes a major source of disagreement between the Senate and Malacañang , as it was in the 2006 budget," said Drilon.

The Senate cut the administration' s proposed P1 trillion budget for 2006 by P64 billion, including the entire P8 billion Kalayaan and Kilos Asenso funds, which led to an impasse with the House and Malacañang . This resulted in a failure to approve the 2006 budget forcing government to use a rolled-over 2005 budget.

When Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. appeared before the Senate Tuesday and appealed for cooperation, Drilon told him it would be easier for the Senate to approve the 2007 budget if it did not contain the P8 billion-allocation that senators insist was President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo' s pork barrel.

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