Press Release
November 12, 2018

"Jobs odometer" in budget, "labor sovereignty" in tied loans, mitigate job losses in TRABAHO, rice tariffication--Recto

As the latest SWS survey reported close to 10 million Filipinos jobless last September, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto has called on government to attach a "jobs odometer" to the P3.757 trillion 2019 national budget and pursue other measures to reduce unemployment.

And in the light of the spike in joblessness, Recto warned that the "optics will not be good" if government would allow the mass entry of foreign workers to take jobs in the construction sector "even if this is a condition imposed by a funder of tied loans."

Recto said the "joblessness picture" will also impact discussions on two crucial bills - on rice tariffication and the TRABAHO measure - as many sectors have expressed concerns that the two will trigger job losses.

On next year's national budget, Recto urged the economic managers "to run the numbers on how many jobs a P3.7 trillion spending will create."

"We need to calculate this for many reasons--we have to ready the workforce required, and identify other job generators," Recto said.

Next year's budget earmarks P776.08 billion for capital outlay, with P531.86 billion to be spent by the DPWH, mostly for roads, bridges and building, and P51.75 billion by the DOTR for rail, ports and other transportation facilities.

Not included in this count are projects funded under the PPP mode, and some projects funded wholly or partly by foreign loans and grants.

In the case of so-called "tied loans" in which preferences by the funder are institutionalized in loan contracts, government should reject ones with "high imported labor content," Recto said.

"Any bias against local labor should not be accepted. We have many returning OFWs who can fill the slots and do the job. No loan should discriminate against Filipino talent. We should insist on a hire local policy," Recto said.

Recto said the "wave" of Filipinos returning home from abroad are enriching the local talent pool. "They are bringing with them top-notch skills and cutting-edge know-how. And the magnificent skylines of many cities are the best calling cards of their building skills."

Recto said the "jobs will likewise influence the shaping" of the rice tariffication and TRABAHO bills. "The employment data will have a say in determining the lengths to which we shall liberalize the domestic rice market and cut fiscal incentives to industries."

"All estimates point to some form of economic dislocation of farmers if rice import restrictions will be replaced with tariffs. Some 1.1 million rice growers will be negatively affected. Aggregate farmers' losses could go up to P87.9 billion a year," Recto said.

Recto, however, recognized the existence of a "jobs-skills mismatch". The demand for skilled labor has been ahead of the supply, he added.

One way of creating an endless stream of talented Filipino engineers, technicians and craftsmen is to align part of the Philippine educational system to the actual needs of the economy.

"We should wipe out the backlog in technical-vocational equipment and teachers in senior high. In addition to more engineering and science courses, we should encourage SUCs to offer tech-voc courses because it is a job that should not be left to TESDA alone. The glory and heritage of government trade schools should be resurrected," he said.

"The approach should be comprehensive. We cannot 'build, build, build' if we do not 'train, train, train.'"

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