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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Gov’t, 3+ Social Partners initiate multi-sectoral responses to assist workers affected by global financial crisis

Labor and Employment Secretary Marianito D. Roque urged the Philippines’ Three Plus (3+) Social Partners, including labor, management, government, industries, and other salient sectors, to stand together as one and enable the country to face up to and surmount the global economic crisis, even as he bared that the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has allotted some P402.852 million to urgently assist the workers displaced by the threat.

Roque, addressing the opening of the DOLE-led Multi-Sectoral Conference on the Global Financial Crisis on the theme, “Responding to the Employment Challenge,” at the Ichikawa Hall of the Occupational Safety and Health Center in Quezon City, emphasized with importance the necessity of a joint, united effort among the 3+ Social Partners in order to effect salient interventions, ensure effective assistance, and mitigate the impact of the global crisis on “every affected human being, every affected Filipino worker.”

Participating in the vital one-day workshop were more than 300 labor, management, and industry leaders, the representatives of economic and other salient government agencies, those representing the land- and sea-based sectors of the country’s vital overseas employment industry, global organizations like the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and other sectors, complemented by the top DOLE leadership and the Department’s labor and employment experts.

Roque, in convening the workshop, had commended the earlier response of the giant Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (FFCCCII) to the DOLE’s call to assist the affected workers, through an earlier Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) that the Department and the Federation had successfully forged.

In particular, Roque thanked the country’s 3+ Tripartite Partners for their concrete responsiveness, citing their “readiness to lend support in facing a [global] challenge that is much, much bigger than ourselves.”

The Labor and Employment Chief emphasized that precisely, the DOLE initiated a Multi-Sectoral Action Workshop “for us all to come together to address and give solutions” to the common crisis they are facing.

Roque, in particular, evoked the urgency of assisting and pushing effective interventions and safety net measures, in behalf of some 33,000 affected workers who have begun to experience shorter working hours, along with the more than 40,000 workers displaced by the global economic crisis, citing the latest DOLE report.

Digressing partly from his speech, he said that there is absolutely no need to “perform magic as we have been [wrongly and unfairly] accused” as regards the accrual effects of the crisis on our workers and industries, emphasizing instead to the social partners the importance of pushing assistance for the sake of “every human being and Filipino worker” threatened by the global financial crisis.

Nonetheless, the Labor Chief emphasized that notwithstanding the global crisis, the country’s labor market has remained resilient in 2008, as employment nationwide grew by 1.6% or a net addition of 530,000 employed persons in the labor force mainly in the services, and agriculture, fishery and forestry sectors, offsetting the hard-hit industry sector which contracted by –1.5%. Despite the earlier report of the DOLE that the deployment of OFWs surged to a record 1.376 million in 2008, he nonetheless expressed concern on the latest reports that some 5,404 workers have been displaced abroad.

He said that in response to the affected workers, to-date the DOLE has now assisted a total of 4,460 affected workers as follows: 613 have been provided with emergency employment assistance, 965 with job referrals, 1,007 with legal assistance on their money claims, 422 with skills training, and 1,453 with livelihood assistance/seed capitalization.

Roque added that specifically, some 1,015 affected workers have benefited from its P402.8 million GFC assistance fund with P1.488 million benefiting 150 workers under its Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged Workers (TUPAD) Program; P7.34 million benefiting 290 workers under the DOLE

Workers Income Augmentation Program (WIN AP)/ Adjustment Measures Program (AMP) funds in Region IV-A or CALABARZON; P1.1 million benefiting 337 workers in Region VII or Central Visayas also under WIN AP; and P902,000 benefiting 238 workers in Mindanao, specifically Surigao del Sur and Zamboanga del Norte.

The Labor and Employment Chief added that the DOLE’s safety net measures and assistance package for affected workers nationwide and worldwide also encompass the following: the Integrated Services for Livelihood Advancement of Fisher Folks (ISLA) in all coastal provinces in the North Luzon Agri-business Quadrangle and Mindanao Agri-Business Quadrangle; the DOLE UNLAD or Unified Nurses Learning and Employment Project for would be overseas Filipino nurses; Training, Livelihood and Job Placement.

All these, Roque said, will be reinforced meticulously by DOLE, in cooperation with industries and pertinent sectors, with the conduct of the Skills Mapping Registry, a 24x7 dedicated GFC Hotline; the establishment of Help Desks in all Regions and Provinces around the country under the supervision of the DOLE’s GFC Special Task Force under the leadership, coordination, and supervision of DOLE Senior Officials.

Overseas, he said that on-site, the DOLE’s Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLOs) in more than 30 strategic host destinations worldwide are tasked to undertake 24/7 monitoring, actively assist in securing benefits for displaced workers, provide job replacement and repatriation assistance.

Significantly, Roque said that amidst the continuing stream inward of numerous job orders for OFWs, he has tasked the DOLE’s Philippine Overseas Employment Administration to validate the approved job orders and facilitate private sector-led marketing missions to generate more job orders, with emphasis, particularly, on the “net job orders within the year to be able to assist and place displaced OFWs [back in productive employment].” In addition, the DOLE’s National Reintegration Center for OFWs (NRCO)-Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), POEA, and the DOLE’s Technical Education and Skills Development Authority are ready with pertinent training, livelihood assistance, and job placement referral services for those displaced OFWs forced to return to the country.

Roque said that for the purpose of facilitating assistance to workers, the DOLE has now activated a 24/7 Global Financial Crisis (GFC) Hotline (Hotline No. [632] 527-4337) for responding to all pertinent queries from all sectors on available assistance to affected workers, alongside the ongoing interventions.

Roque told the country’s 3+ Social Partners gathered in the multi-sectoral event in response to the global financial crisis that, “what is essential is for us to be able to have an effective and vibrant working relationship despite the crisis, in order to help, mitigate the plight of, and turn around the situation in behalf of the affected workers.”

He said that in standing up as one, both the government and the various sectors of the country, especially the DOLE and the 3+ Tripartite Partners, must work together and identify the opportunities to help the workers, sustain resiliency, and maintain productivity.
In emphasizing the importance of their multi-sectoral workshop and thrusts, he said that ultimately, the workshop will enable the government and the 3+ Social Partners together, to concretely specify the commitments and timelines necessary to effect the delivery of assistance to affected workers.

“Let us work together,” the Labor Chief told the nation’s 3+ Social Partners in his address opening the event.

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