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Monday, January 26, 2009

Ople Center to Gov’t: Consider Transition Allowance for Workers Laid Off Due to the Global Financial Crisis

The Blas F. Ople Policy Center joined the mounting clamor for a bail-out package for displaced workers as part of the government’s livelihood assistance program. The suggestion was initially aired by Partido ng Manggagawa, a party-list workers’ group.
Susan Ople, founder of the BFO Policy Center, said a bail-out package for displaced workers could include a transition allowance that would enable them to put food on the table for their families while scouting for new jobs or undergoing livelihood training as part of the government’s economic resiliency program. The Center said the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration (OWWA) can work with the Department of Education (DepEd) and Commission on Higher Education (CHED) on a joint program to keep children of displaced OFWs in school despite the crisis.
“In January 2003, the government bailed out private banks with non-performing assets through the Special Purpose Asset Vehicle (SPAV) law. There have also been previous attempts to come to the aid of Napocor. Now, when hundreds of workers lose their jobs through no fault of their own, can’t government intervene by giving them direct financial assistance during a transition phase?” the Policy Center pointed out.
Over three thousand Filipino workers have been sent home last December due to layoffs in various factories in Taiwan. Most of the displaced workers have outstanding debts obtained prior to departure in order to pay their placement and brokers’ fees. They issued post-dated checks to private lending companies hoping that their earnings would be enough to cover the loan.
“A transition package to enable displaced workers to partly settle outstanding loans or maintain their families’ upkeep is an imperative confidence-building measure. Unless they are given cash assistance to help their families, these workers would have a difficult time finding new jobs or setting up a micro enterprise,” Ople stressed.

The Center said cash transfers can be part of a transition program for displaced workers that would also include career-planning sessions and skills retooling. It stressed that overseas and local workers displaced by the global crisis possess the experience and skills to be gainfully employed and are not in search of dole-outs from the government. “This direct assistance should not be considered as a dole-out but as an integral part of a more comprehensive jobs and livelihood program. It will help them to move on and hopefully, even move up as productive members of the workforce,” the BFO Policy Center pointed out.
The Special Purpose Asset Vehicle (SPAV) Law or Republic Act No. 9182, enacted inJanuary 2003, was widely expected to address the problem on non-performing assets (NPAs) of Philippine banks.
In 2003, the Philippines NPL ratio of 14.1% was one of the highest in the region compared with Thailand - 12.9%, Malaysia - 8.3%,Korea - 2.6%, and Indonesia - 8.2%. RA 9182 provides the regulatory framework for granting fiscal incentives to asset management companies (AMCs) or special purpose vehicle (SPVs) that purchase the NPAs of banks at a discount.

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