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Monday, December 29, 2008

DOLE YEARENDER: Workers Benefit as DOLE Helped Improve Working Conditions

Last Part of a Series of Four

The year 2008 will be remembered for the remarkable rise in the price of petroleum products in the global market as well as the financial meltdown that stemmed from the US in the third quarter of the year which continues to impact on major markets around the world at present. Despite the exigencies brought about by these adverse events, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) was quick to respond to lessen the brunt on the workers.

The DOLE didn’t have to prepare or formulate new programs to respond to the extraordinary needs of the times as most of the contingency plans were regular fare of the Department aimed at alleviating workers’ plight. If at all, only critical adjustments have to be made to make the policies and programs more responsive and appropriate to DOLE clients.

Wage increase and non-wage benefits

On Labor Day, Labor and Employment Secretary Marianito D. Roque instructed all the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Boards (RTWPBs) to fasttrack sectoral consultations in their respective areas for the immediate issuance of new wage orders. Roque’s directive came in the wake of increasing prices of oil products and rice even while the last wage orders have yet to reach the reglementary one-year period before a new one can be issued.

Under the rules governing wage increase, the regional boards must declare the existence of “supervening conditions” for them to be allowed to hear petitions for wage increase even before the one-year reglementary period expires. A supervening condition exists when there is an extraordinary increase in the prices of petroleum, manufactured products, and basic commodities.

For a long while that such incidence has not taken place, the DOLE’s National Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC) affirmed the existence of supervening conditions in all regions, except for the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, and thus resulted in the issuance of new wage orders. The National Capital Region, traditionally the earliest petitioners for wage hikes, was the first to grant a new wage increase for 2008 – an additional P15 on the basic pay and P5 cost of living allowance.

The Department’s intervention did not stop with the issuance of said wage orders. Immediately, Roque formed a body that would identify and help implement non-wage measures with labor and management. As a result, a DOLE Inter-Agency Committee on Non-Wage Benefits for Workers was established in line with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s earlier directive to convene tripartite meetings where social partners can discuss the grant of additional non-wage benefits to workers. In July this year, 43 companies in the Calabarzon area entered into an agreement with government agencies assuring their participation in gearing up programs to help workers cope with the rising cost of fuel and food products.

Among the more unique programs proposed by the DOLE was the establishment of day-care centers especially in workplaces with more women workers. According to the DOLE Chief, such an endeavor would help workers lessen the cost of early childhood education and ensure the health and safety of the workers’ children. On the employers’ side, they too would benefit in terms of sustained efficiency and productivity of workers who would no longer be bothered by family and economic pressures in looking after the welfare and safety of their young children while they are at work.

Employers who establish and operate corporate-based day-care centers can also gain tax incentives under Republic Act 8980 or “An Act Promulgating a Comprehensive Policy and a National System for Early Child Care and Development, Providing Funds Therefore and For Other Purposes”. Roque said that under the DOLE’s family welfare program, 20 large firms nationwide will soon be putting up day-care facilities in their workplaces.

Labor standards, health and safety

As a continuing commitment, the Department conducted a nationwide inspection blitz in the first half of the year, resulting in the awarding or settlement of more than P37 million due to correction of labor standards violations at various establishments. It benefited more than 18,000 workers. Roque said the DOLE’s Bureau of Working Conditions (BWC), the lead agency for the inspection activity in coordination with the DOLE regional offices, disclosed that the necessary corrections have been applied under the DOLE's Labor Standards Enforcement Framework (LSEF) on violations of core labor standards particularly the minimum wage, and social welfare benefits specifically SSS, PagIbig, and PhilHealth.

He added that under the LSEF, a nationwide inspection blitz goal covering over 30,000 companies in the country’s 16 regions has been set for the entire 2008. From January to May alone, the lean corps of 142 labor inspectors were able to inspect 8,555 establishments with close to 205,000 total number of workers.

Alongside compliance with core labor standards, Roque urged all regional offices to intensify inspection of firms particularly their compliance with health and safety standards to avoid work-related fatalities and injuries. This year, the DOLE recognized 48 firms that have achieved safety milestones in implementing occupational safety and health programs, subsequently preventing the occurrence of accidents and disabling and fatal injuries in the workplace.

The honored establishments were responsible for preventing a combined number of more than 900,000 cases of disabling accidents and almost 70,000 mandays lost which could have happened in their worksites had they not complied with OSH standards and other labor laws. Equating them to actual costs, the 48 firms were able to save more than P20 million in manpower replacements and medical expenses.

Significantly, Roque issued DOLE Department Circular No.2, series of 2008, amending Rule 1003.03 of the occupational safety and health standards of the 1974 Labor Code, thereby expanding the OSHS coverage to include establishments engaged in land, sea, and air transportation. Prior to the issuance of said order, these companies were not covered by OSHS except their garages, dry docks, port hangars, and maintenance and repair shops. Roque stressed that protecting workers from hazardous workplaces is part of the national efforts to ensure the conservation of valuable manpower resources and the prevention of loss or damage to lives and properties.

DOLE YEARENDER: Industrial Peace Reigned in 2008

Third Part of a Series

In what may be another historic milestone for the Department of Labor and Employment, the year 2008 saw the lowest strike rate in seven decades of the Departments’ colorful existence.

Amidst the global financial crisis spawning a slowdown or recession in most of the economies of the world, the country experienced the most stable and calm industrial front ever as only five (5) strikes were registered during the year.

Labor Secretary Marianito D. Roque, citing a report from the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB), the agency that addresses turbulence in the industrial front, said the relentless efforts of the agency to settle industrial disputes and prevent strikes and lockouts have drastically reduced their occurrence for the last 21 years.

The Board primarily provides conciliation and mediation services to disputing parties. It also promotes other modes of labor dispute settlement such as grievance handling, voluntary arbitration and labor-management cooperation. It also introduced the concept of preventive mediation, wherein labor and management conflicts are settled without the pressure of a threat of strike or lockout.

Lowest strike rate
Roque said that with the intervention of NCMB, the annual number of strikes and lockouts tapered off gradually from a high of 581 in 1986 to its lowest yet of five in 2008, adding that notices of strikes/lockouts had a disposition rate of 89 percent, as compared to the 86 percent in 2007. Settlement rate was at 77 percent as against 74 percent last year.

The labor chief said efforts to facilitate settlement of industrial disputes and prevent debilitating strikes and lockouts gained headway as disputing parties resorted to less costly and more expeditious means of settling their disputes.

Roque said for 2008, disputing labor and management resorted to a total of 509 cases of preventive mediation (PM) to hasten the settlement of their dispute. With PM, disputing labor and management request the NCMB for conciliation in the settlement of their conflict.

The Alternative Dispute Resolution
The DOLE Chief hailed the social partners for displaying maturity, saying their preference for alternative dispute resolution (ADR) indicated their heightened awareness on the benefits of resolving disputes amicably and expeditiously.

“ADR is less costly and more expeditious as compared to compulsory arbitration which has proven to be adversarial, expensive and susceptible to delays,” Roque said adding that “ADR also facilitates dispute settlement and, thus, ensures labor and management harmony and continued productivity of workers.

Roque also took note that PM cases handled by NCMB had a 100 percent success rate in 2008, just about the same in 2007.

Under PM, cumulative monetary benefits as a result of settlement of CBA deadlock issues were computed at P183 million benefiting 1,674 workers during the period.

The NCMB said notices of strikes/lockouts in 386 establishments were handled, of which 342 were disposed of. Disposition rate since January improved to 89 percent from 86 percent while settlement rate likewise climbed to 77 percent from 74 percent last year.

The NCMB report also showed that cumulative collective bargaining agreement (CBA) economic benefits as a result of settlement of bargaining deadlock cases were computed at P578 million benefiting 7,768 workers. Likewise, the settlement of cases involving unfair labor practices (ULP) issues benefited 2,398 workers with P193 million in separation pay and restitution packages.

As of October 2008, the DOLE, through the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC), also resolved a total of 28,773 compulsory arbitration (CA) cases out of the 40,583 cases handled at the regional arbitration level, registering a disposition rate of 71%. The NLRC likewise resolved a total of 11,249 cases out of the 17,385 cases handled at the Appellate level, registering a disposition rate of 64.7%.

The resolution of CA cases facilitated the awarding of P 1.753 billion in favor of the 11,522 workers or about P152, 144 monetary benefits per worker.

The report also stated that the DOLE continued to help in resolving conflicts between contending labor unions or within union ranks to prevent potential paralysis in operation at the workplace. During the year, the DOLE regional offices disposed 254 med-arbitration cases out of the 316 cases handled, registering a disposition rate of 80%.

A total of 9,475 cases from labor standards violations not exceeding P5,000.00 per individual and without claims for reinstatement were handled by the DOLE’s regional offices, out of which 4,645 were disposed for a disposition rate of 49.02%. The resolution of these cases resulted in the payment of P200.75 million cash benefits to 46,592 workers.

Labor Education

The strengthening of labor education and compliance assistance to workers and employers in the areas of human relations, labor relations and productivity have resulted in increased maturity of the social partners especially at the firm level, in resolving workplace conflicts. Since 2001, almost 1 million workers and employers as well as graduating college students were reached by the DOLE’s continuing labor and employment education program (LHP).

For the year 2008, the LHP program of DOLE benefitted 100,417 workers, employers and graduating students.

DOLE YEARENDER: Employment Facilitation Complements RP’s Response to Global Financial Crisis

Second Part of a Series

The Philippines continues to surmount the effects of the global financial crisis with the strength and vitality of its employment facilitation thrusts on both the local and the global fronts.

Labor and Employment Secretary Marianito D. Roque affirmed that, “indeed, the distinctive global preference for our overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) concretely indicates their productive role in averting the worst effects of the crisis affecting the world economy, assisting in staving off economic slowdown among host destinations and the local sphere.”

Roque emphasized that, notwithstanding the worldwide crunch, the year 2008 culminates as another record year for global OFW preference.

He said that so far, more than 1.221 million OFWs have been deployed in over 190 host countries, in the first eleven months of 2008 (January to November), complemented by more than US$13.7 billion in remittances to the local economy from January to October this year, as confirmed by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

“As the year 2008 proceeds to 2009, we project the global OFW deployment figure to further approach the 1.5 million level, and global OFW remittances to reach US$16 billion to $17 billion during the entire year.”

Roque was apprised earlier by the DOLE’s Philippine Overseas Employment Administration that the total figure of 1,221,829 OFWs deployed worldwide from January 1 to November 30 this year, is 24 percent higher than the 982,286 OFWs deployed in the same period in 2007. Of the total deployed, around 75 percent or 916,606, are landbased workers, while the remaining 25 percent, or 302,223, are seafarers.

The POEA added that the successful deployment of more than a million OFWs globally during the year had been complemented by the new markets that opened up in Canada, Romania, Bulgaria, Dubai, Taiwan, Qatar and Australia.

Roque further cited the POEA’s report that from January to October 2008, professionals and skilled workers accounted for the vast majority, or 90 percent of the total new hired OFWs, with those in low end skills, such as laborers, constituting the remaining 10 percent.

Globally, Roque said that the 10 major destinations of new hired OFWs during the year’s first 10 months are the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (which absorbed 61,164 or 34.5 percent of the new hires), the United Arab Emirates (34,595 or 19.5%), Qatar (21,352 or 12.0%), Taiwan (14,660 or 8.3%), Kuwait (8,326 or 4.7%), Hong Kong (7,912 or 4.5%), Canada (4,007 or 2.3%), Bahrain (2,168 or 1.2%), Australia (1,858 or 1.0%), while other destinations accounted for 19,366 or 10.9%.

On the local front, Roque said the number of employed persons, grew by another 861,000 to reach 34.533 million in October 2008, from 33.672 million in the same period last year based on the National Statistics Office’s (NSO) Labor Force Survey.

Roque also said that the DOLE-supervised network of Public Employment Service Offices (PESOs) nationwide placed in all types of jobs some 517,667 jobseekers, achieving a total placement rate of 71% out of the total number of jobseekers referred.

The DOLE, under Roque, had earlier pushed salient employment facilitation thrusts which reinforced the strength of productive opportunities locally and globally. Such salient thrusts included the following:

The Local Front

During the Labor Day celebration last May 1, Roque led the launching of the DOLE’s Greater Modular Access (GMA) Jobs Center, which is the Philippines’ first unified, synchronized on-line jobs search incorporating the time-tested Phil-Jobnet, in shopping malls, city halls, and other strategic locations in the country. A growing number of jobseekers, reaching some 169,160 people currently, or an average of more than 20,000 each month, have accessed the 100 job centers’ highly useful information, thus, facilitating their jobs searches.

Hand-in-hand with the GMA Jobs Center, the DOLE’s Phil-Jobnet system (accessible 24/7 at the world wide web through the effectively supported the placement of jobseekers in the entire 2008, by enabling them to search for work in listed job openings, and to post their resume in the online database free of charge.

DOLE also efficiently maintained its Trabaho… I-text Mo short messaging system (SMS) facility. The facility complements the Phil-Jobnet by enabling jobseekers to inquire about the vacancies posted in the Phil-Jobnet simply by typing Trabaho and sending it to 2476 for Smart subscribers, or 2376 for Globe.

The Global Front

Roque said that with an effective global network, the DOLE’s Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLOs) in more than 30 strategic OFW host destinations worldwide are figuring greatly and effectively in the global preference for our workers.

He cited the preparations being undertaken for the Philippine-Australian cooperation on the recruitment of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). This is remarkable considering that, notwithstanding the global crisis, South Australia is bent on recruiting OFWs to address its perennial skills shortage. A DOLE technical team and its counterpart from South Australia’s Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) have been in consultations for the forging of a pertinent Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), the Labor Chief said.

Ahead of the development on Australian opportunities, Roque also triumphantly forged with His Excellency, Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Dr. Sultan bin Hassan Al-Dhabit, the Additional Protocol to the older Labor Memorandum of Agreement between the Philippines and Qatar, which successfully adopted a Standard Employment Contract (SEC) in view of the preference of Qatar, a major host country, for OFWs, and the need to ensure their protection and welfare.

Meanwhile, as Roque led the Philippine Delegation to the successful Global Forum on Migration and Development in Manila recently, he also firmed up the international cooperation to protect workers amidst the demand for their skills. With His Excellency, Minister of Labor Saqr Ghobash of the United Arab Emirates, they launched on the sideline the joint “Pilot Project: Administration of Temporary Contractual Employment from India and the Philippines to the United Arab Emirates” which takes into account the full employment cycle from recruitment to reintegration.

Sustained marketing missions

With the Secretary of Labor at the helm, the government has dispatched a total of eight (8) marketing missions so far which ensured emerging opportunities for OFWs in the new markets including Canada, Romania, Bulgaria, Dubai, Taiwan, Qatar and Australia.

The POEA said that among the results are the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) successfully forged with Qatar, and earlier, with the Provinces of Alberta, Manitoba, and British Columbia in Canada.

Anti-Illegal Recruitment (AIR)

Adjunct to all employment facilitation efforts, the DOLE has boosted the ongoing drive against illegal recruitment, in cooperation with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), the Philippine National Police (PNP), as well as the Local Government Units (LGUs).

In strengthening employment facilitation and protecting jobseekers, the POEA in tandem with the law enforcement agencies and LGUs assisted a total 1,662 IR victims from January to November 2008, and filed a total of 320 IR cases, with 94 surveillance conducted, resulting in 92 illegal recruiters apprehended, and nine (9) establishments closed.

Roque said that in the AIR campaign, the POEA has now forged agreements with LGUs in Metro Manila such as those entered into with Valenzuela, Malabon, Mandaluyong, Las Piñas, Muntinlupa and Quezon City, adding that the DOLE is eyeing a nationwide replication of the effort. “The guiding light is the President’s Executive Order No. 548-A clearly defining and strengthening our role in the fight against illegal recruitment.”

Deployment ban

Roque also noted that in certain cases, the Philippines has resorted to the issuance of necessary ban against OFW deployment in areas faced with crisis. Nonetheless, the measures over time had been modified depending upon the favorable change of situation or condition of OFWs, reinforced by the determined effort on the part of DOLE and the host country to impose the necessary rules in order to resume deployment and facilitate placement.

Response to Global Financial Crisis

Employment facilitation also continues in response to the global crisis. The POEA reported that of some 439 displaced OFWs assisted so far, 312 had been given referrals to other recruitment agencies for possible placement overseas.

With some 1.221 million OFWs deployed worldwide from January to November this year, there have been no appalling effects observed from the global financial crisis on OFW deployment -- notwithstanding the displacement of a limited number of workers due to bankruptcy, retrenchment, redundancy, restructuring and reduction in workload – being offset as the global economy’s efforts to turn the situation favorably around would continue to require skilled OFWs.

DOLE YEARENDER: Weathering the Crises Through Well-placed Programs

First Part of a Series

Year 2008 was a turbulent and challenging period in the efforts of the Department of Labor and Employment to assist the Filipino workers locally and abroad cope with the impact of external factors, notably the rising food and fuel prices and weakening of the U.S. dollar in the early part of the year and the raging financial crisis that continuously rocks the world and brings incalculable instability to countries adversely hit by the crisis.

In the midst of difficulties, the DOLE, nevertheless, remained steadfast in the pursuit of its objective to promote the employment and welfare of every worker. The year, thus, saw the DOLE’s vigilance and prompt responses it undertook in order to mitigate the impact of the disastrous external environment on the workers. It introduced new measures while strengthening existing programs to improve its delivery of services to the workers in line with its five major strategies, namely, support for employment generation, employment facilitation, employment preservation, and employment enhancement.

Geared towards the attainment of a gainfully employed, globally competitive, secure, and a safe workforce, the DOLE pursues its strategies with the well-being of the workers at the top of its agenda.

Livelihood Assistance to 85,810 Marginalized Workers

While recognizing the role of the private sector as the main engine in employment generation, the DOLE, nonetheless, implemented various livelihood programs aimed at assisting vulnerable sectors such as the self-employed and unpaid family workers make their existing livelihood undertakings grow into viable and sustainable businesses. Assistance in restoring the livelihood resources of self-employed workers which were destroyed by natural disasters was also extended. Meanwhile, the income of low-salaried workers was augmented by helping them engage in collective enterprise undertakings.

Early this year, the livelihood programs were rationalized and reformulated to optimize program benefits and suit the needs of target clients, specifically informal sector (IS) workers including the differently-abled persons, indigenous peoples, parents of child laborers, disadvantaged women and youth, urban poor, and landless farmers and fisherfolks and returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). Consequently, a total of 85,810 marginalized and vulnerable groups of workers were assisted in livelihood formation, enhancement, and restoration.

In response to increases in the price of food and oil that occurred at the onset of 2008, the DOLE launched the Dagdag Kabuhayan Para sa mga Manggagawa or the workers’ income augmentation program (WINAP) to assist low-income organized and unorganized workers in the formal sector set up and operate their own businesses or livelihood undertakings without necessarily leaving their current jobs. The program benefited a total of 43,666 low-income workers from 131 unions who were assisted in obtaining additional income sources to enable them provide adequately for their families.

Emergency/Bridging Employment for Displaced Workers

At the same time, the DOLE implemented the Adjustment Measures Program (DOLE-AMP) to assist displaced workers engage in livelihood projects. In 2008, the program’s coverage was extended to workers displaced by natural calamities benefiting a total of 2,669 workers displaced by typhoon “Frank.” The beneficiaries were provided emergency employment in the form of wage subsidy in small-scale public works and infrastructure development projects of local governments in their respective locality.

Efforts were also set in place to mainstream the concerns of women and young workers including child laborers. The DOLE in this regard widened the coverage of the Women Workers Empowerment through Entrepreneurship Development program to assist not only organized women workers but also women in the informal sector also in setting up livelihood undertakings.

New Projects

For young workers, the DOLE initiated the Youth Entrepreneurship Support project to mold new entrants to the labor force who could not be absorbed by wage employment become entrepreneurs and possibly employ members of working youth organizations. To date, the DOLE in eight regions have already partnered with the academe, LGUs, and other government and non-government organizations for the implementation of the project.

To help parents of child laborers earn incomes through livelihood undertakings, the DOLE started the. Kabuhayan para sa Magulang ng Batang Manggagawa (KaSaMa) in line with the objective in child labor prevention and elimination. In Region 3 (Central Luzon), 20 parents of child workers received almost P150,000 KaSaMa funds for their training-cum-production on dressmaking, salted eggs and balut-making, and meat processing.

Later in the year, the DOLE also launched two similar emergency employment projects, the Integrated Services for Livelihood and Advancement of the Fisherfolks (ISLA) and Tulong Hanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged Workers (TUPAD). ISLA aims to assist 2,500 maginalized fisherfolks in Iligan City and coastal municipalities of Misamis Oriental and Bataan make their existing livelihood undertakings grow into viable and sustainable businesses. TUPAD, on the other hand, aims to provide short-term wage employment to 1,188 disadvantaged workers in Bulacan and Bataan. The two projects would be implemented in cooperation with local government units (LGUs).

Towards the end of the year, Labor and Employment Secretary Marianito D. Roque also launched the youth education-youth employability or YE-YE project by entering into an agreement with Jollibee fast food chain for an undertaking that would give children of IS workers and child laborers an opportunity to pursue a post-secondary course through tuition fee advances while being afforded essential training at the workplace. The projects targets to assist some 100,000 children of IS workers in their studies in the next two years.

Assistance to new entrants to the labor force and indigent students

Bridging employment assistance were also extended to new entrants to the labor force and poor but deserving students to enable them acquire the necessary work experience and entry-level requirements of industry under the Special Program for the Employment of Students and the Kasanayan at Hanapbuhay program. Both programs, which benefited almost one million students since 2001, exposed the beneficiaries to actual work situations and provided them with opportunities to appreciate work and develop work ethics while earning some income.

Reintegration Services for OFWs

Meanwhile, the DOLE’s National Reintegration Center for OFWs (NRCO) and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) extended various reintegration services to returning OFWs to help them sustain their earnings from abroad. These services included the provision of business and investment counseling, referral to banks and microfinance credit facilities, financial management and investment opportunities, and livelihood support. The NRCO assisted a total of 25,541 OFWs and their families as well since its establishment in March 2007. The Center also extended assistance to 325 OFWs in Taiwan who lost their jobs due to the financial crisis. Services provided the OFWs included job search for local or overseas placement, issuance of TESDA Training Certificates of Commitment, and Certificates of Eligibility for livelihood assistance. Legal services were also given to those seeking refund of placement fees and or deferment of loan payments.

OWWA, on the other hand, approved 1,008 livelihood projects of 72,798 OFWs and their dependents. The agency’s Groceria Project also granted 818 OFW Family Circles with 17,917 members with interest-free loans in the form of P50,000 worth of grocery items and goods for their OFW Grocerias.

A Better World Is Possible, A Better Philippines Is Attainable

An adopted resolution in the National Forum on "Bailing out the Philippine Economy" last December 18, 2008 at PRRM Headquarters, Mo. Ignacia cor. Dr. Lascano, Quezon City

The US financial meltdown, which has precipitated a full-blown global recession, is rooted in the neo-liberal dogma that markets are self-correcting and work best for the common good when left unregulated. Neo-liberalism worships on the altar of an imaginary global free trade system and frowns on any government market regulation as harmful to growth, investment and employment. Such narrow thinking allowed a greedy few in Wall Street to create toxic bubbles in the financial markets and make fabulous earnings out of unproductive speculative investments everywhere. Such thinking is also the weapon used by a few global corporations and neo-liberal economists from Washington in imposing on the world an asymmetrical trading arrangement based on equal rules for unequal trade partners. The result is predictable: a crisis-prone and imbalanced global economic order as demonstrated by the global food crisis, the deteriorating global climate, and the global financial meltdown.

The above neo-liberal thinking, now widely denounced in the developed world, has been the guiding philosophy in Philippine economic governance, no thanks to the IMF-World Bank and their structural adjustment programs and no thanks to a succession of unrepentant neo-liberal economic technocrats, from the Marcos era to the present.

In the last three and a half decades of neo-liberal economic governance, the Philippines managed to shrink its industry and agriculture through a blind program of deregulation, import liberalization and government neglect. This erosion of the country's agro-industrial base is at the roots of Philippine joblessness and is the singular reason why one after the other, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand, China, India and now Vietnam have left the Philippines behind. Without the remittances of over 8 million overseas Filipinos the country would have been in a much more terrible shape.

And yet, now that many of our overseas Filipinos are facing threats of forcible expulsion from their host countries and that some of our so-called export winners are likely to shrink in 2009, it is incomprehensible to see our government technocrats pushing for more economic liberalization such as 0-5 tariff rates for domestic industries such as steel, auto and cement. In the WTO, the Philippines is even abandoning the NAMA-11 coalition of developing countries seeking trade flexibility. It is also pushing for more free trade within the ASEAN, with America and with the pan-Pacific region under APEC. All this is happening at a time when there is a global re-thinking of the unbridled laissez faire economic model, which is at the roots of the financial Armageddon and our own prolonged economic stagnation.

We, at the Fair Trade Alliance, therefore, would like to add our voice to those calling for a new and just global economic order. The primary purpose of finance is to serve productive capital in creating jobs and wealth for society. The primary purpose of trade is to link economies based on mutually beneficial arrangements. The WTO, IMF-WB group and other so-called development agencies should be remodeled based on these rules. There is no room for a one-size-fits-all rule for not all countries are created equal. Each developing country must be given maximum flexibility to deepen its agro-industrial capacity and accelerate growth based on its level of development.

We, at the Fair Trade Alliance, also call on our government and policy makers – Take a pause, a historic pause in this mindless program of pursuing unilateral, bilateral, regional and multilateral liberalization. The present global crisis and the re-thinking going on in many capitals of the world present our country a historic opportunity to overhaul the neo-liberal development program that has miserably failed Philippine society. Instead, we urge our government and policy makers to immediately put in place the much-needed safety nets for our working people, including our industrialists and entrepreneurs. One effective safety net, to preserve jobs and industry, is to adjust our industrial and agricultural tariffs toward our maximum bound tariff commitments to the WTO.

We also demand that the government immediately put a halt to the senseless automatic appropriation of two-thirds of the national budget for debt servicing. We should instead adopt the Argentinian budgeting system, which makes allocation for debt servicing only after urgent adequate allocations have been made for urgent and priority social spending. Like the other countries, the Philippines need a large stimulus package directed at the domestic market to preserve and create millions of jobs. The government should be able to spend as much as it can on productivity-raising infrastructures such as school buildings, renewable energy, communal irrigation projects, farm-to-market roads, harvest silos, barangay health clinics, public transport systems and so on.

Finally, we call on all Filipinos to join us in the movement to cast aside the bankrupt neo-liberal economic model of governance and promote instead our vision of Nationalist Development. based on our five-point agenda composed of the following: one, a coherent, balanced and pro-Filipino trade-development economic governance structure, two, a program of re-calibrating our agro-industrial fences to give our industry and agriculture a breathing space for survival and growth; three, a program of enhancing our national productive capacity through the all-out mobilization of domestic resources in support of industry, agriculture and entrepreneurship; four, a program to unleash our people's productivity capacity through a rounded program of human resources development and completion of asset reforms; and, five, a program for the inculcation of the culture of industrialism, tangkilikan, excellence and economic nationalism.
Walang sasagip sa Pilipino kundi Pilipino rin!

A Better World Is Possible! A Better Philippines Is Attainable!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Ecotourism Gets Spotlight in TOYM Awards

Along with four other distinguished young Filipinos, Tourism Secretary Ace Durano is a recipient of the highly anticipated and well-renowned TOYM (The Outstanding Young Men) Award this year, for his efforts and achievements in ecological tourism.

Joining the roster of honorees, which include Antonio Andres Alfonso (Science and Technology), Rex Adivoso Bernardo (Community Service), Christian Joseph Cumagun (Agricultural Service), and Karen Davila (Broadcast Journalism), Durano expressed his gratitude to the Department and their partners in pushing ecotourism forward.

The tourism chief conveyed his strong belief that, "As a nation, there are more things that unite us than divide us. There are things we can do together that can make a remarkable difference."

The awardees were chosen by a formidable Screening Panel and Board of Judges composed of previous TOYM honorees and respected leaders in various fields, which include former Philippine Ambassador to the United States, Hon. Albert F. del Rosario with members Alfredo C. Antonio (Member, Monetary Board of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas), Ryan P. Cayabyab (Award-winning conductor and composer), Edgardo G. Lacson (President of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry), Hon. Maria Gracia Cielo M. Padaca (Governor of the Province of Isabela), Hon. Henrietta T. De Villa (Chairperson of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting), and Gen. Alexander B. Yano (Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines).

"This award is not a recognition of what I have accomplished, but what the Department has attained in its ecotourism and marketing efforts," Durano said at a recently-held press conference at the ELJ Communication Center in Quezon City.

A committed advocate of ecotourism and education, Durano has been the youngest cabinet member in the Arroyo Administration. Before his appointment as tourism secretary, he was the Representative of Cebu's 5th District.

Organized by Junior Chamber International, Inc. (JCI), or Jaycees, the TOYM Award is widely recognized as the country's most prestigious recognition for young men and women whose selfless dedication to their field resulted to significant contributions to our country and countrymen.

"TOYM aims to honour the best of the Filipino. Having only five honorees from among numerous nominations this year is a testament to TOYM's strict précis in selecting the awardees," JCI Member and TOYM organizer Ramfel Preclaro said.

According to a TOYM Statement, "Durano has formulated well-focused campaigns, launched ecological tourism programs that market the natural endowments of Philippine travel sites. Under his leadership, tourism in the Philippines is now rated as the best improved and performing in Asia."

Durano also acknowledged the Department's partnership with various NGOs, and socio-civic groups. "Eco-tourism was pushed forward through our team-up with committed and efficient organizations such as US-AID, New Zealand AID, Bantay Kalikasan, Philippine Eco-Center, Haribon Foundation, among others."

He added that, "We should continue working towards promoting ecotourism in the country; as this links to the welfare of rural communities. People patronizing ecotourism destinations and practicing responsible and sustainable tourism will lead a strengthened relationship."

His fresh marketing strategies, organizational skills, and marketing expertise have propelled the Department of Tourism to greater heights since his appointment in 2004, as observed by his team.

"He implemented a number of new initiatives that reinvigorated growth in arrivals from foreign markets and pioneered growth in new markets, increased tourist spending as well as generated interest in tourism investments and business opportunities," Undersecretary for Tourism Planning and Promotions Eduardo Jarque, Jr. noted.

Jarque added, "He encouraged creativity among his market teams, which has led them to prioritize markets with the greatest potential if sending visitors to the Philippines."

The DOT Office on Tourism Development Planning and Statistics reported that 2007 saw breakthroughs in Philippine tourism. Foreign arrivals breached the 3 million mark and tourist expenditures posted a hefty growth of 40.99 per cent, reaching US$ 4.885 billion, surpassing the US$ 3.782 target.

"His mantra regarding the Department's new global portfolio strategy integrates insights on winning in core markets, growing in strategic markets, and maintaining interest and awareness in investment markets," Jarque further said.

This strategy has paid of with the country benefiting greatly from its active participations in various travel and trade fairs and expositions in Asia and Europe.

The Philippines has reaped enviable recognitions ranging from Tourism Marketing Excellence, Award of Excellence, Best Booth, Creativity Award, and Best Marketing Support Award, to name a few.

Durano looks forward to the coming year with optimism, saying, "2008 has proved to be a better year for the industry with positive growth rates both in arrivals and tourist spend."

The young and dynamic Tourism Secretary also said, "We encourage everyone to visit other communities and travel to ecotourism sites this Christmas. Ecotourism is the way to go."

Also a Development Champion of the Central Philippines Super Region and Cabinet Officer for Regional Development (CORD) for the CARAGA Region, the tourism chief has also received honorary distinctions from the Philippine Military Academy (Class '79) and Lieutenant Colonel (reserve) of the Philippine Air Force.

The annual search is jointly presented by Junior Chamber International Philippines with the TOYM Foundation Inc. and the Gerry Roxas Foundation Inc., together with this year's corporate sponsors BDO, PLDT, Splash Corporation, CamSur Watersports Complex, the Manila Bulletin, JCI Sen. Dennis L. Cunanan, and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation.
The formal awarding ceremonies will be held at the Rizal Hall of Malacañang Palace on Saturday, December 20, 2008, with Her Excellency President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as the Guest of Honor.

DB Asia Outlook 2009 - The end of growth?

-The global economy enters 2009 in awful condition, with pretty much every
financial time series you can find pricing in a historically grim picture.
We think that the market has only begun to downgrade Asian growth, and see
further downside revisions as a near certainty.

- In this environment, government bond markets should easily outperform
equity early in 2009. Asian forward curves have yet to price in our
expected monetary policy response, and the long end of many yield curves
will have a tendency to overshoot fair value on the downside early in 2009.
Korea stands out as the clearest case for a duration overweight position.

- For a long-term perspective, we use a measure of the equity risk premium
to back out implied growth shocks for Asia. Based on any reasonable
judgment of Asia's long-term growth potential, these show bond markets to
be too expensive relative to equities. This will become relevant for bond
markets once growth expectations stabilize. They also support a rank
ordering of relative value in Asian bond markets where again, Korea stands
out as the cheapest.

- We think that credit will be a good bridge investment between short-term
returns on government bonds in early 2009 and equities in 2010 and beyond.
Macro policy developments and cheap pricing argue in favor of credit. From
a relative value perspective we still find Asian credit to be inexpensive
relative to Europe and the US, and with a slightly more benign outlook.

- China: Market sentiment towards the RMB has shifted drastically, though
we would argue a major trend reversal in USD/CNY is very unlikely. The
ability for Chinese local markets to absorb larger than expected fiscal
stimulus is enormous. This highlights the risks for further downside on
interest rates and a steeper curve especially on the ND-IRS curve.

- Hong Kong: While banking sector liquidity is set to improve, huge fiscal
requirements would imply more active HKD rates, higher USD/HKD and a
steeper curve. We enter the year neutral duration on HKD fixed income but
look to reduce exposure on out-performance to UST. Expect 2Y/10Y IRS to be
much steeper over the course of the year.

- India: The policy roadmap for 2009 is clear ? monetary easing will have
to continue doing the heavy lifting in India, given that a poor budgetary
position to begin with has left little room for effective fiscal
stimulus.We continue to be overweight on duration going into 2009, as we
see the local curves yet to price in the scale of monetary response we
expect over the next few months. The government bond curve is likely to
continue to bull flatten in this rally, and we could see 10 year cash bond
extending lower to 5%.

- Indonesia: The state of global risk appetite will be critical to shaping
the outcome for Indonesian local markets in the New Year. We don't like the
risk-reward on being long government bonds at current levels, and will look
for cheaper entry points in the front to mid-end of the curve over the next
few months. The near-term downside risks we anticipate on IDR seem to be
well priced into the NDFs already. We think onshore forwards provide a
better avenue for real money investors to hedge their currency risk.

- Malaysia: With growth risks skewed to the downside, we expect the
Malaysian policy response to feature more aggressive fiscal expansion than
monetary accommodation, with implications on our view of the yield curve.
The short end of the curve already seems to price in our expected response
from the BNM. Whereas the long end of the curve is not pricing the
potential supply implications of expanding fiscal policy. The swap curve
has run well ahead of the cash curve, making it especially expensive, and
our favorite way of getting underweight duration in this market.

- Philippines: The outlook on domestic policy dynamics and demand-supply
technicals calls for lower bond yields and steeper local market curves in
the year ahead. We recommend being long the 2-5 year part of the curve,
with FX exposure. Technicals on sovereign external debt look supportive,
but neither the trajectory of fundamental credit quality nor relative
pricing (especially versus other credit markets) seems particularly

- Singapore: With expectations of a resumption of SGD appreciation
disappearing from the horizon, we see no good reason to expect SGD rates to
remain below USD rates in the short end of the curve. 2Y swaps should
continue to underperform the USD curve. Demand in the long end for SGS
should continue to be strong early in 2009 with well contained fiscal
supply pressures. By contrast the flattening of the USD curve could be
hampered by supply issues. We expect the SGD curve to continue flattening
relative to the USD curve as a result.

- Korea: Spot USD/KRW is likely to remain very choppy in H1 within a broad
1500-1250 range, in our view. However a more sustained trend of
appreciation of the won is likely to unfold when the outlook on global
growth starts to improve by around mid-year. We enter the year long
duration on Korean fixed income via receive 3Y IRS, long 1Y/3Y and 2Y/10Y
steepeners as well as maintaining exposure to our long-held 2Y onshore USD
ASW exposure. Finally we look for the long-end of the KTB curve to
outperform IRS and suggest a 3Y/10Y ASW box trade to capture this view.

- Taiwan: We look to enter 2009 neutral duration but long 2Y/10Y
steepeners. We think there might be tactical opportunities to receive IRS
on short-covering in Q1-09 (at around 1.8%) but we think steepening led by
lower front-end rates is the most likely trend. On currency, we expect
USD/TWD to make a new all time high above 35.50, but expect TWD to
outperform some of its regional peers thanks to continued repatriation
inflows from local retail and institutional investors.

- Thailand: We recommend going into 2009 with an overweight duration
position, shifting to a duration neutral steepening position around mid-way
through 2009. In dealing with the crisis, weak government(s) will hamper
fiscal expansion, leaving pressure on the BoT to support growth with lower
rates. The short end of the curve has yet to price in our rate cut

Tri-People Peace Summit Call for Referendum in Mindanao

In a peace summit, some 400 representatives of people’s and nongovernment organizations affirmed their call for the conduct of a United Nations-supervised/managed/facilitated referendum on four political options: free association, autonomy, federalism, and independence.

“The conduct of a referendum is the most peaceful and democratic way to resolve how the right of self-determination of Mindanao’s Tri-Peoples can be served,” said Alvaro Senturias, chairperson of the Mindanao People’s Peace Movement that convened the summit on December 12-16 at the Mindanao State University in Marawi City.

In their 5th Mindanao Peoples’ Peace Summit Declaration (or Marawi Declaration 2008), the participants called on all concerned parties to “assert the right to self-determination of the Tri-Peoples, build just and lasting peace, and work for genuine development in Mindanao.”

The Tri-Peoples refer to the Katawhang Lumad (indigenous peoples), Bangsamoro (Muslims), and Mindanao’s Migrants and Descendants (settlers) from Mainland Mindanao, Sulu, Basilan, Tawi-Tawi, and Palawan.

They conducted their 5th Mindanao People’s Peace Summit to discuss ways to “advance democratic political options for peace in Mindanao”, where the four options proposed to be presented in a UN-managed referendum were explained by different resource persons and discussed in workshops.

In their Marawi Declaration 2008, the participants asserted their “collective fundamental right to self-determination and commitment to just and lasting peace and sustainable development in our Homeland, with full recognition of our socioeconomic, political, cultural and religious diversity.”

They also said that “the government’s total war policy threatens the achievement of just and lasting peace and creates a spiral of violence detrimental to our people and environment.”

“The way to peace and development requires the systematic resolution of political, economic, and socio-cultural problems, including long-held biases and prejudices that have prevented our genuine appreciation of each other’s actual and potential contributions,” said the participants in their Declaration.

They also committed themselves “to continue exploring ways to correct historical mistakes and misunderstandings that have led to the persistence of violence and destruction.”

They also “called for an openness from the different peoples, as well as the various armed groups operating in our Homeland, to build communities of peace, to find their path to harmony and tolerance, and to resolve the fundamental causes of conflict.”

They also appealed to the Philippine government “to resume peace talks with the armed rebel groups operating in Mindanao, to refrain from insisting on the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) framework; to stay the hand of war that has scuttled many initiatives from civil society groups; and, to address the valid concerns these armed groups raise.”

“The different armed rebel groups (should) go back to negotiations, with an openness and flexibility needed to facilitate a genuine dialogue and resolution of issues,” urged the participants.

They also emphasized the need for continuing consultations with all affected parties and communities and civil society groups, especially the Katawhang Lumad (indigenous peoples), in the conduct of all peace- and development-related processes in Mindanao.

The government was represented by Undersecretary Dimasangkaya Pundato of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

Representatives of revolutionary groups spoke at the Summit were Bobby Alonto, member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Negotiating Panel and Dr. Alepekre Basher

Secretary General of the Moro National Liberation Front-Bangsamoro National Parliament.

Rey Claro Casambre, executive director of the Manila-based nongovernment organization Philippine Peace Center gave his insights on the peace process between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front.

Representatives of another organization, Cagayan de Oro-based Balay Mindanao, Inc., the Independent Secretariat, spoke on the peace talks between the Philippine government and the Rebolusyonaryong Partidong Manggagawa-Mindanao.

Aside from ending the cycle of violence, the government and Mindanao Tri-Peoples are challenged to address other development concerns.

These include the “lack of social services; lack of food sovereignty; continuing export of contract labor; threats to youth, women and children, environmental degradation and climate change; and, the chronic economic crisis brought about by globalization.”

The participants come from Moro groups, indigenous people’s groups, interfaith groups, students and academe, and nongovernment organizations working on different development concerns such as peace, human rights, disaster relief and rehabilitation, and environmental concerns.

Aside from the MPPM, the Peace Summit was organized by the Southern Christian College-Community Education Research and Extension Administration (CEREA), and nongovernment organizations Sumpay Mindanao, Inc and the Tri-People’s Organization against Disasters Foundation (TRIPOD), Inc.

31 Top Hospitals in NCR Establish Tripartite Council with Labor, Govt

Thirty-one prime hospitals in the National Capital Region (NCR) today entered into an agreement with labor and management to establish a tripartite council and provide for the partners’ collaboration in addressing labor and employment issues and concerns affecting the hospital sector in the region, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said.

Labor and Employment Secretary Marianito D. Roque said representatives of the 31 hospitals and leaders of hospital unions in NCR signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the setting up of the Hospital Industry Tripartite Council (HITC), the tripartite body that paves the way for the social partners’ collaboration in the pursuit of common goals not only in the advancement of the welfare of hospital workers but also that the entire hospital industry in NCR.

Under the MOU, the parties agree to fully comply with the Labor Code provisions on the rights and responsibilities of the social partners and maintain openness of the sectors in communicating their concerns to sustain cohesiveness.

The MOU also provides for the conduct of labor-management education for labor and management in the hospital industry. The social partners also agree to advocate programs promoting occupational safety and health and productivity improvement in the hospital industry and to provide for skills training and upgrading of hospital workers in accordance with technological advancement in the industry.

Roque said the setting up of the HITC for the hospital industry in NCR is a milestone in the efforts to promote labor and management harmony and cooperation in the hospital sector considering that the other regions usually look up to NCR as the country’s prime region and leader in activities worth emulating.

He expressed hopes that the HITC in NCR would encourage other hospitals in other regions to also engage in similar undertakings as this would not only contribute to industrial peace but also to efforts in protecting the rights and welfare of workers, which in turn, is imperative in ensuring productivity and growth of the hospital industry.

The industry is the ultimate beneficiary, Roque said as he hailed the 31 hospitals for agreeing to establish the HITC in NCR.

The hospitals are as follows: Asian Hospital and Medical Center, Capitol Medical Center, Cardinal Santos Medical Center, Chinese General Hospital, Delos Santos-STI Medical Center, Dr. Jesus Delgado Memorial Hospital, Dr. Victor R. Potenciano Medical Center, FEU-NRMF Medical Center, Hospital of the Infant Jesus, Las Piñas City Medical Center, Inc., Las Piñas Doctors Hospital, Inc., Makati Medical Center, Manila Adventist Medical Center, Manila Doctors Hospital, MCU-FDT Medical Foundation, Medical Center – Parañaque, Medical Center – Manila, Metro South Medical Center, MPI Medical Center Muntinlupa, Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Our Lady of Peace Hospital, Perpetual Help Medical Center Las Piñas, San Juan De Dios Hospital, Seamen’s Hospital, St. Clare’s Hospital, St. Luke’s Medical Center, St. Jude’s General Hospital and Medical Center, The Medical City, United Doctors Medical Center, UST Hospital, and World Citi Medical Center.


Gov’t Issues Pay Rules for Long Holiday

The government today reiterated the pay rules for the regular holidays on December 25 (Christmas Day), December 30, 2008 (Rizal Day) and January 1, 2009 (New Year’s Day), as well as the special non-working days on December 26, December 29, and December 31, 2008 (Last Day of the Year).

Labor and Employment Secretary Marianito D. Roque said that based on Proclamation No. 1463 issued by President Arroyo on February 18 this year, she declared December 26 (Friday) and 29, 2008 (Monday) additional special (non-working) days throughout the country, “in order to enable our countrymen to have a more meaningful observance of Christmas and New Year, to strengthen their ties with one another.”

At the same time, Roque said that the President, in her Proclamation, maintained that Christmas Day on December 25 (Thursday), and Rizal Day on December 30, 2008 (Tuesday) are regular holidays.

Furthermore, the Labor Chief said, New Year’s Day on January 1, 2009 (a Thursday), by virtue of law, remains a regular holiday nationwide.

Roque, in a Labor Advisory consistent with the President’s directive to the DOLE to promulgate the implementing guidelines for Presidential Proclamation No. 1463, said that pursuant to the provisions of the country’s Labor Code, as amended, the rules for pay on the said regular holidays and special non-working days shall apply as follows:

A. For the regular holidays on December 25 (Christmas Day) and December 30, 2008 (Rizal Day), and January 1, 2009 (New Year’s Day):

1. If it is the employee’s regular workday:

¨ If worked, [the employee] is entitled to 200% of his [or her] basic wage for the first eight (8) hours and, for work in excess of the 8 hours, an additional 30% of his hourly rate on the said day;
¨ If unworked, he is entitled to 100% of his daily rate, provided he was present or was on leave with pay on the workday immediately preceding the holiday.

2. If it is the employee’s rest day:

¨ If worked, he is entitled, for the first 8 hours, to 200% of his daily rate plus 30% and, for work in excess of 8 hours, plus 30% of his hourly rate on the said day;
¨ If unworked, he is entitled to 100% of his daily rate, provided he was present or was on leave with pay on the workday immediately preceding the holiday.

3. Where the day immediately preceding the holiday is a non-work day in the establishment or the scheduled rest day of the employee, he shall not be deemed on leave of absence on that day, in which case he shall be entitled to the holiday pay.

B. For the special (non-working) days on December 26 and 29, and December 31, 2008 (Last Day of the Year):

1. If worked, the employee is entitled to 130% of his [or her] daily rate for the first 8
hours, and to additional 30% of his hourly rate on said day for work performed in
excess of 8 hours;

2. If unworked, he is not entitled to any payment, unless there is a favorable company policy, practice or collective bargaining agreement (CBA) granting payment for special days even if not worked;

3. If worked and falling on the employee’s rest day, the employee is entitled for the first 8 hours to 150% of his regular daily rate, and for work performed in excess of 8 hours, plus 30% of his hourly rate on the said day.

Any clarifications regarding the holiday pay rules may be made with the DOLE’s Bureau of Working Conditions (BWC) at tel. nos. 920-2381 and/or 920-2482.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


GENEVA- 18 December 2008 - Countries should recognize the positive contribution that migrants can make to economic growth and recovery and resist the temptation to close doors to them in times of economic slowdown, says the International Organization for Migration (IOM) as it marks International Migrants’ Day today.

“Although the economic crisis is still unfolding and its full impact remains unclear, it would be counter-productive for governments in developed countries to close their doors to migrants. Many of them are still needed in jobs that citizens in industrialized countries are unable or unwilling to take,” says IOM Director General William Lacy Swing.

This structural need for migrants, who represent the human face of globalization, is underlined by demographic projections showing that by 2050, these countries will experience even greater labour shortages due to falling birth rates and aging working populations, leaving twice as many people over 60 years of age than children. Indeed, migration has become a linchpin of globalization.

“Closing doors will undoubtedly encourage migrants to use the exploitative, abusive and often life-threatening back entrance into destination countries offered by human smugglers and traffickers. Just as importantly, such a reaction risks contributing to greater social division and xenophobia towards migrants already in these countries by perpetuating the myth that migrants are job-takers,” says Swing.

The economic crisis should also not be used to exploit migrants in the informal sector through the lowering or non-payment of wages, abuses to which undocumented migrants are especially and routinely vulnerable.

Their continued ability to send money back home is crucial to fighting poverty in migrant origin countries, where families are often dependent on such funds to pay for basic needs such as food, housing, health and education. Families all over the world are already suffering the consequences of reduced remittances and face an uncertain future.

Closing the door to migrants would also negatively impact on the increases in remittances to developing countries witnessed year-on-year, and which now far exceed official development assistance (ODA) flows. This growth rate has already seen a sharp deceleration in the past few months, particularly to Sub-Saharan Africa where remittances are probably needed the most. The World Bank now estimates that remittances to developing countries in 2009 will be less than the estimated total of US$ 283 billion for 2008.

“It becomes ever more crucial to ensure that ODA levels do not drop at this time to ensure that poverty and development gaps aren’t exacerbated by this economic crisis. If they are, then the pressure on people to migrate by whatever means they can find will increase,” Director General Swing adds.

At the same time, migrant-origin countries have a greater responsibility to fully inform their citizens of the realities of both regular and irregular migration and step up to the challenge of working more closely than before with destination countries and societies to ensure migration becomes a win-win situation for all involved.

“Let’s not make a migrant crisis out of an economic crisis. Keeping sight of the fact that migrants are part of the solution for both countries of origin and destination can help in coming out of this crisis sooner rather than later,” Swing concludes.

Statement by Juan Somavia

Director-General of the International Labour Office on the occasion ofInternational Migrants Day 18 December 2008

Today we recognize the 200 million international migrants, 50 per centof whom are women and men migrant workers, who have left their homes andcommunities to find work and better opportunities elsewhere in the worldto support their families and communities. They make huge but oftenunrecognized contributions to growth and development of both their hostcountries and home communities. The principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are wellreflected in the two ILO Conventions on migrant workers - Migration forEmployment Convention, 1949 (No. 97), and the Migrant WorkersConvention, 1975 (No. 143) - as well as in the International Conventionon the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and TheirFamilies (1990), all landmarks in the international protection ofmigrant workers. Equality of treatment and non-discrimination areuniversal principles enshrined in these instruments which provide thefoundation for a rights based approach to labour migration in aglobalizing world. It is encouraging that 80 countries have ratified oneor more of these instruments.
The current global financial and economic crises have seriousimplications for migrant workers worldwide. Past experience makes uspainfully aware that migrant workers, especially women workers and thosein irregular status, are among the hardest hit and most vulnerableduring crisis situations. While the full impact of the crisis onmigrant workers is yet to unfold, there are reports of direct layoffs,worsening working conditions including wage cuts, increasing returns,and reductions in immigrant intakes. Yet all sectors may not be equallyaffected, and destination countries should assess their labour marketneeds before resorting to general layoffs of migrant workers. It isimportant that migrant workers do not become scapegoats for the currentfinancial and economic crisis.
Source countries are already grappling with the challenges ofemployment creation for their citizens including increasing numbers ofreturn migrants and falling remittances. The integrated strategy fordecent work contained in the 2008 ILO Declaration on Social Justice fora Fair Globalization provides us with a solid foundation in addressingthe current crisis. Availability of decent work opportunities at homewould also pave the way for migration by choice, not by necessity. A growing global mobilization involving, among others, global andregional trade union federations, employers* organizations andnational associations will be critical in advancing migrant workerconcerns.
On this International Migrants Day, the ILO renews its commitment topromote decent work for all women and men migrant workers worldwide inclose collaboration with the United Nations family.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

OFW deployment still robust amidst financial crisis

Labor and Employment Secretary Marianito D. Roque today said there is still no massive displacement of overseas Filipino workers as the deployment of Filipino workers for jobs in various destinations overseas remains robust amidst the raging global financial crisis.

Roque said the financial crisis has not yet affected OFW deployment as the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration continues to process the deployment of close to 3,000 OFWs who leave the country for their overseas employment on a daily basis.

Roque also assured the public particularly OFWs and their families that the displacement of over half a million OFWs due to the financial crisis as reported in the media would not occur based on the number of OFWs who returned to the country over the past months.

He explained that the reported over half a million OFWs projected displacements was based on a worst case scenario which was crafted in an effort of the DOLE to prepare appropriate responses to the impact of the financial crisis to OFWs.

He said the number of OFWs who, so far, lost their jobs overseas due to the financial crisis and had already gone home is not that alarming as they only constitute part of an average of 1,000 OFWs who return to the country every month. The returning OFWs, he said, also included those whose employment contracts abroad had expired.

Roque said OFWs’ employment termination this year including those adversely affected by the financial crisis is at the same level as that of 2007.

He said that while almost 3,000 OFWs are deployed everyday, only about a thousand OFWs return home every month indicating that the trend of OFW retrenchments in the midst of the financial crisis is within the normal level.

POEA records also showed that OFWs deployment reached 1.116 million from January to October 2008, up by a robust 25.5% (+227,780) compared to the 888,339 OFWs deployed worldwide in the same period in 2007. OFWs remittances also soared to a record high of US$12.3 billion from January to September this year, representing a 17.1% growth above the remittance record in the same period last year.

The DOLE Chief added that reports from 34 Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLOs) in various destinations abroad with high concentrations of OFWs did not indicate massive displacements of OFWs due to the financial crisis.

He said that as part of the DOLE response strategy and contingency plan, the POLOs have been directed to closely monitor OFWs displacements to enable the DOLE provide the necessary assistance to the affected OFWs.

On the contrary, Roque said assessments of POLOs in strategic locations in the Middle East stressed that the employment of OFWs remain secure as the financial institutions in countries in the region are “liquid.”

He added that OFWs in Europe are also secure since most of them are engaged in essential occupations.

At the same time, the DOLE Chief said that the labor markets in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Guam, and Japan are stable and expanding to provide more employment opportunities to OFWs.

Leaders of the ship manning industry also reported that some crew of cruise ships who were displaced have been placed with other vessels while others are under process for deployment, “that in fact the maritime sector is still experiencing shortage of seafarers”.

Earlier, Roque directed the POLOs to monitor labor requirements in emerging and expanding labor markets to find new employment opportunities and redeploy displaced OFWs in these labor markets.

The DOLE strategy for OFWs also includes the provision of livelihood assistance to those who opt to set up business enterprises, and skills upgrading and scholarships to those who want to embark on a new occupation.

Roque said that initially, a profiling of displaced OFWs is conducted to determine the affected OFWs’ skills and the kind of assistance they want to be given them. He said, that so far, over a thousand OFWs in Taiwan who lost their jobs due to the financial crisis and had returned home since October have been profiled.

He said that the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) have been instructed to assist the profiled OFWs in case they failed to get their wages and other benefits from their employers or brokers in Taiwan.

They would also be referred to the Manila Economic and Cultural Office for endorsement to jobs in Taiwanese firms in the Philippines. Others who prefer trainings and livelihood assistance would also be given appropriate services.
For local workers who may be displaced due to the crisis, livelihood assistance will be provided them under the adjustment measures and income augmentation programs.
Employment facilitation services will also be extended to those who want to find another job locally or overseas.

The DOLE is prepared to respond in the face of eventualities to protect and ensure the employment and welfare of Filipino workers, locally and overseas, Roque said.

Specialization Fulfills Non-voice BPO Requirements

In a recent study conducted by the Business Process Association of the Philippines (BPA/P), 96 percent of survey participants representing non-voice BPO services providers indicated that 2009 business prospects are good, excellent, or outstanding, and 51 percent of respondents indicated excellent prospects for 2009.

“As global companies continue to look for cost-efficient ways to do business, they will begin to explore opportunities such as outsourcing to address workforce concerns that impact competitiveness,” ExcelAsia President Trillo-Ugarte explained. ExcelAsia is a market-leading full-services human resource solutions provider. More than 50 percent of its client base comes from the BPO industry.

Trillo-Ugarte cautioned, however, that if the surge in demand for non-voice services accelerates as expected, it will be necessary to provide specialized training to prospective employees to develop the core skills required to deliver these services. “Since non-voice BPO tends to be more technical and specific, training will become a significantly more important consideration for these sectors than for the voice sector” Trillo-Ugarte said.

Despite the positive outlook for non-voice BPO services sectors, 88% of the survey respondents expressed concern over the difficulty of hiring qualified personnel. Forty-four percent indicated that the impact of the recent global financial crisis is a critical impediment to growth.

To help address this impediment, ExcelAsia has developed a dedicated sites strategy to address non-voice BPO client concerns related to expansion. “We’re doing a number of things to help our clients meet non-voice services demand,” Trillo-Ugarte said. “One of the most important is what we call a dedicated site strategy in which we provide entire facilities devoted to training prospective employees for just one client.

“Of course, to do this, we are developing our own qualified workforce with the specialized skills required by the non-voice sectors. This provides our clients with a reliable pipeline of candidates trained by functional experts,” Trillo-Ugarte explained.

Under the dedicated sites strategy, each BPO client benefits from focused delivery of services. ExcelAsia also provides its dedicated sites strategy for voice BPO clients. Account executives, recruitment officers, and trainers are assigned to service a specific client to meet ramp-up demands and other workforce requirements. Trillo-Ugarte expects the greatest demand in non-voice BPO to come from companies offering financial and risk assessment services.

TESDA holds 8th National TVET Forum

Technical Education and Skills Development Authority Director General Augusto Syjuco yesterday announced the holding of the 8th National Policy Forum on Technical-Vocational Education and Training from December 11 to 12 at the TESDA Women’s Center in Taguig City. The theme of the forum is “Surging ahead Towards Quality and Relevance in TVET”.

TESDA will host the national TVET forum in partnership with the League of Offshoring and Outsourcing Partners @Philippines Inc., a new organization of ICT companies, technical and vocational institutions, head hunters, and industry partners which aims to foster solidarity, enhance skills empowerment, and provide employment opportunities to Filipinos that would lead to life transformation.

Secretary Syjuco said the forum comes amid the backdrop of the global financial crisis and aims to solicit inputs and recommendations on specific issues relative to TVET. The two-day forum will be a combination of paper presentations, round-table discussions, open forum, and plenary sessions.

“The TESDA has developed and implemented TVET policies and reforms, but there remain gaps in terms of coverage and implementation. With this forum, we hope to achieve common understanding and appreciation of these policies, in addition to coming out with new ones that will enhance quality and relevance of technical vocational education and training,” Syjuco said.

Syjuco noted that TESDA stakeholders and customers have observed the dynamism of TVT during the last four years, and said there is a need to follow through consensus building among the diverse TVET sector.

“This forum is a mechanism that will address that,” he said.

Some 450 participants from TESDA training centers and schools, private sector industry, and TESDA itself have been invited to the forum, which will focus on seven TVT thematic areas, namely, 1) trainers and assessors qualifications; 2) competency assessment and certification; 3) enterprise-based training; 4) education tourism; 5) national qualifications framework; 6) third-party accreditation; 7) and gaps between training output and industry needs.

To prepare for this important event, Syjuco said TESDA’s 17 regions have conducted pre-forum consultations to surface issues and recommendations.

PhilPost Launches Letter Writing Contest on Decent Work

Letter writing is still believed to be an indispensable tool in developing love, friendship and a strong bondage of family ties.

The Philippine Postal Corporation and the Universal Postal Union based in Berne, Switzerland have launched the 38th International Letter Writing Competition for young people to promote better understanding around the world through the post office.

The competition will focus on the theme “Write a letter to someone to explain how decent working conditions can lead to a better life.”

Decent work means eliminating child and forced labour, bringing down the barriers of inequality, and preventing dangers at work; it means fostering an environment where people work in dignity, and earn enough to feed their families, educate their children and save for retirement. Learn more about decent work by viewing a short animated presentation available at or The presentation can be viewed in 25 languages.

The 1st prize winning entry on the national level will automatically qualify for the UPU international letter writing competition to be held in Switzerland. The theme was chosen in coordination with the International Labour Organization, which is currently launching a worldwide campaign on the importance of decent work.

Students or out-of-school youth who are citizens of the Philippines and not more than 15 years old are qualified to join the contest. The compositions must be recent and must be in the form of a letter (must include the address of the recipient and sender as well as a proper signature ending). It should be written in English - between 500 to 1,000 words long, handwritten or typewritten. On a separate sheet of paper, the participant must indicate the number of words of the letter, complete name and address, gender of candidate, age and birth, 2x2 coloured ID picture, name of school and address, grade level, and contact numbers. Compositions should refrain from promoting anypolitical or religious opinions, strictly following the set theme.
The first prize winner will receive P15,000; second prize, P10,000; third prize, P5,000 plus other recognitions.

The competition is also a way of making young people aware of the important role that the service plays in our societies, to foster attention for writing letters even though other means of modern communication exists, such as mobile phonesand the Internet.

Send your entries to Ms. Joy E. Cacho or Ms. Annadel S. Bangalisan, PhilPost Marketing, 3/F Philippine Postal Corporation (PhilPost)Liwasang Bonifacio 1000 Manila or call +63 (2) 527 0059 / 527 0108 / 5248771. Each entry must be sent either through Domestic Express MailService (DEMS) or Registered Mail. Deadline for submission of entriesis on 28 February 2009.