CAMARINES Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte has called on the Congress to do its part in stemming the continuous hemorrhage of jobs in the country by helping Malacañang fast-track the implementation of President Duterte’s Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pagasa (BP2) initiative designed to supercharge growth and create a lot of livelihood opportunities outside Metro Manila amid the prolonged coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) pandemic.
Villafuerte said the proposed BP2 law will not only lead to urban decongestion but, more importantly, will also give the badly-needed boost to economies in the regions outside the metropolis amid the worldwide growth slump touched off by this once-in-a-century health and economic crises.
“The BP2 measure is a long-term solution to revitalize the economies in the provinces and create jobs for the ever growing Filipino workforce, including our dislocated migrant workers who have returned home and remain unemployed because of the pandemic,” Villafuerte, a former governor, said.
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, the number of unemployed Filipinos stood at 4.14 million in April, bringing the unemployment rate to 8.7%, which is higher than the 3.44 million jobless Filipinos and the 7.1% unemployment rate reported in March.
The Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE), meanwhile, said that based on its latest Job Displacement Monitoring Report, a total of 1,148,996 workers have been displaced from January 1 to May 30, 2021. DoLE also reported that more than 564,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) have been repatriated since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic last year.
A Social Weather Stations survey showed joblessness fell slightly among the 18-to-34-year-olds, from 57.2 percent in November 2020 to 55.5 percent in May 2021. It rose slightly among the 35-to-44-year-olds buth hardly changed among those 45 years old and above.
It fell slightly among graduates and non-graduates of elementary schools.
It hardly changed among junior high school graduates, from 30.8 percent in November 2020 to 30 percent in May 2021. It barely moved among college graduates.
Villafuerte explained that the BP2 will provide for, among others, a menu of tax breaks and other incentives to entice corporations to relocate to, or expand their businesses in, areas outside the Greater Manila area.
“The previous high COVID-19 caseloads in Metro Manila and the current spike in other urban hubs outside the national capital reflect the dark side of urban congestion. Fast-tracking the implementation of BP2 will help decongest highly populated urban centers,” Villafuerte said.
Last year, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) gave its full backing to Villafuerte’s House Bill (HB) No. 6970 on the BP2 initiative.
However, although the BP2 bill is the long-term solution to ease unemployment, Villafuerte said the immediate response to provide aid to jobless and low-income families is the proposed Ayuda law that aims to provide a cash grant of P10,000 per household, to be given right away and in one release only, Villafuerte said.
Until such time that business and consumer confidence is restored to pre-pandemic levels, he said boosting household spending is crucial to the country’s recovery as domestic consumption accounts for 70 percent of the economy.
“This measure, popularly known as the 10K Ayuda bill, will let vulnerable families cope with the economic shock of COVID-19 amid the loss of jobs and incomes and, in turn, boost household spending or consumption, which accounts for almost two-thirds of the Philippine economy,” Villafuerte said.
Villafuerte earlier raised the possibility of reviving the “10K Ayuda” bill, even if it was already consolidated and substituted with the proposed third Bayanihan law, now that this P401-billion stimulus package could end up gathering dust in the legislature after both Malacañang and the Senate expressed a lack of interest in supporting the half-baked measure passed recently by the House of Representatives.
He said that discussions on the 10K Ayuda bill, which was authored by former Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, Villafuerte and the other members of the independent majority bloc BTS sa Kongreso, could be reopened at the committee level when the 18th Congress reopens for its third and final session next month after President Duterte’s last State of the Nation Address (SONA).
The Ayuda measure, originally HB 8597, was consolidated and substituted with HB 9411—the proposed Bayanihan to Arise as One Act or Bayanihan 3—which was approved on third and final reading by the House of Representatives last June 1 before the Legislature’s sine die adjournment.