Villanueva hopes SONA tackles massive jobs generation for displaced workers, OFWs

Senator Joel Villanueva walching the slide presentation on the privilege speech of Senator Panfilo Lacson at the senate. July 29, 2019. Photo by angie de Silva/Rappler

Senator Joel Villanueva hopes that the upcoming State of the Nation Address (SONA) tackles how the government intends to generate jobs for the millions of displaced workers, especially overseas Filipino workers, as the country struggles to contain the spread of COVID-19.

With a record-high unemployment rate of 17.7% translating to 7.3 million unemployed persons based on the April 2020 labor force survey, the President’s address should serve as a guidepost for all agencies to create and implement policies that would lead to the restart of the economy, the smooth reintegration of OFWs to the domestic labor force, and provide green lanes for in-demand Filipino seafarers for the global supply chain, the lawmaker explained.

“Mahalaga po na matalakay ang plano ng ating gobyerno kung paano tutugunan ang problema sa kawalan ng trabaho ngayong pandemya. Habang wala pang bakuna laban sa COVID-19, tuloy pa rin po dapat ang buhay at kailangan maging handa ang bawat isa sa atin na mag-adjust sa new normal,” Villanueva said in a statement.

“We still call on our government to mount epidemiological monitoring and surveillance in places where there is high economic activity, such as the Metro Manila, CALABARZON (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal), and Cebu. With epidemiological monitoring, we will be able to track how the disease is spreading and take appropriate measures to contain and stem it to prevent the healthy population from getting infected,” he continued.

Villanueva, chair of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment, and Human Resource Development, said he shared the observation of Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III who sought the reopening of the economies in Metro Manila and Region 4A, explaining that about 2/3 of the country’s Gross Domestic Product was generated there.

But Villanueva reiterated that business confidence right now is directly tied to the government’s ability to manage the pandemic well.

“We need to boost the confidence of our businesses to resume their operations and of our workers to come back to work, that is why our government has to step up in preventing the disease from spreading,” he said.

As of July 19, the health department reported that 67,456 persons have been infected of COVID-19, with 43,160 cases listed as active. Some 2,241 confirmed cases were also reported on Sunday, and most of the cases came from the following areas: National Capital Region (1,625), Laguna (115), Cavite (76), Rizal (75), and Cebu (55).

The government should also ensure that repatriated OFWs who lost their jobs abroad are provided enough assistance to start anew, the lawmaker said.

According to Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, OFW remittances could drop by up to 40 percent or about US$12 billion this year as a result of massive job losses overseas. In 2019, the central bank reported that OFW remittances reached US$30.13 billion.

Aside from employment generation, the President’s address should also provide concrete measures to ensure the continuity of learning for all learners in the new normal, Villanueva said./Stacy Ang

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