A BICOLANO lawmaker has welcomed the creation of a new task force that will pursue the implementation of a P24-billion wage subsidy program for private sector workers
Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte said the initiative should be complemented by the government’s Balik Probinsiya Balik Pagasa (BP2) program that aims to generate a lot of new jobs outside Metro Manila.
While this newly created National Employment Recovery Strategy (NERS) Task Force aims to also create jobs, Villafuerte said its goal could be speedily fulfilled by institutionalizing and fast-tracking the implementation of President Duterte’s BP2 program, which is designed to decongest Metro Manila and stimulate the economy in regions outside the metropolis.
“The BP2 program and the NERS strategy will complement each other, which is why I urge the Congress to swiftly pass the BP bill when the Senate and the House of Representatives resume session this month after the sine die adjournment,” Villafuerte said.
Authored by Villafuerte, House Bill (HB) 6970 seeks to fast-track the implementation of the President’s BP2 program by establishing township revitalization programs nationwide in an effort to finally decongest Metro Manila and create more jobs and self-employment opportunities in rural communities amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Villafuerte cited the latest report of the First Metro Investment Corporation-University of Asia and the Pacific (FMIC-UA&P) Capital Markets Research, which said that the results of the April 2021 round of the Labor Force Survey (LFS) showed the job losses nearly offset the 2.18 million jobs created in March 2021
Villafuerte also took note of the think tank’s findings of about 917,000 job lost in the entire industry sector, while the agriculture sector shed as much as 570,000 jobs.
“We have a long way to go before we can recover from the economic impact of the pandemic. We need stimulus measures with immediate impact like the BP2 program to revitalize local economies outside Metro Manila,” Villafuerte said.
Last month, President Duterte signed Executive Order (EO) No. 140 officially adopting the NERS as the government’s master plan for the restoration of the country’s labor market.
According to Trade Secretary and NERS Task Force chairman Ramon Lopez, the program can help retain jobs for as many as one million workers, and that this Task Force will also push the passage of legislation and policies that strengthen economic and employment recovery.
Villafuerte said the BP2 program should be in the list of legislative priorities of the NERS Task Force, as HB 6970 will provide for 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.
“Until we achieve herd immunity, business and consumer confidence will remain lethargic because people will still think twice about going out and spending their money for fear of the lethal virus. We need to transition at the soonest to investment-driven growth to reinvigorate the economy. This is why we are calling for the quick passage of the Balik Probinsya bill to encourage businesses to shift their investments and create more jobs in the countryside,” Villafuerte said.
Last year, the country’s largest business organization with a membership of 35,000 small, medium and large enterprises nationwide gave its full backing to the President’s BP2 initiative, as it endorsed Villafuerte’s HB 6970 on township revitalization amid the drawn-out coronavirus pandemic.
In a letter sent to President Duterte, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) president Ambassador Benedicto Yujuico and former GMA-7 president-CEO Menardo Jimenez, who chairs PCCI’s Balik Probinsya program, said “we all the more must intensify the Balik Probinsya effort,” as it cited “the timeliness and are fully supportive of a bill filed in Congress by (Congressman) Villafuerte, which will provide the basis for ensuring the sustainability of this program.”
Villafuerte has appealed to President Duterte to certify as urgent the nearly year-old Balik Probinsiya measure designed to boost investments, create jobs and drive strong growth outside the metropolis—to finally end the country’s traditional overreliance on Greater Manila as its main engine of economic growth and development.
He said the Palace endorsement of HB 6970, which sets up a national action plan (NAP) for President Duterte’s BP2 program, will complement the recent presidential declaration as urgent measures for congressional approval of three pending bills geared to increase foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows to the country–the Foreign Investments Act (FIA), Public Service Act (PSA) and the Retail Trade Liberalization Act (RTLA).