By Hannah Torregoza and Mario Casayuran
Senator Risa Hontiveros today asked the administration to prioritize the hiring of Filipinos in its multi-billion-peso flagship projects as a positive step towards addressing the rising unemployment among Filipinos.
Hontiveros issued the call following Malacañang’s pronouncement that it is looking into proposals to allow foreigners working in state flagship projects to come to the country.
“Hire Filipinos first,” Hontiveros said. “Millions of Filipinos lost their jobs and are going hungry now,” she added, citing the latest data of 7.3 million Filipinos who were rendered jobless due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Thousands of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who have also lost their jobs are also coming back home to the country. Let’s prioritize them first,” the senator said.
She said the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and the government’s economic cluster team should roll out a master plan that will generate new sources of employment and new investments for the country in order to “replace those that have been lost.”
Priority should be given to industries in the information and communication technology (ICT), agriculture, food manufacturing, the health sector, and urban-rural transport networks, she added.
“We need to harness local skills and talent that are available to us. Let’s make sure that Filipinos have jobs here, before we open it to foreign workers,” she said.
The lawmaker added that jobless Filipinos should be surveyed for their skills and matched with existing and future flagship projects.
“We need to match skills to available and future jobs. The government has to step in as one of our major employers through its flagship projects while we are in crisis,” she said.
She pointed out that many returning OFWs are already qualified to be health workers, engineers, and architects.
“The government needs to survey the population for it to properly address the looming unemployment crisis,” she said.