House members can’t wait to hear the national government’s economic revival plan straight from President Duterte himself when he delivers his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday.
Deputy Majority Leader and Bagong Henerasyon Party-List Rep. Bernadette Herrera said she expects the Chief Executive to lay down concrete plans to address COVID-19 and revive the pandemic-ravaged economy.
“I can safely say that Congress is one with President Duterte in pushing for measures that would protect the public from COVID-19 and resuscitate our ailing economy at the same time,” Herrera said.
She hopes that the President would push for the swift passage of the “much needed and long overdue” stimulus package designed to boost the economy and give aid to hard-hit workers and industries.
“It is our fervent hope that the President would certify as urgent the Accelerated Recovery and Investments Stimulus for the Economy or ARISE bill, which contains a P1.3 trillion economic stimulus package in response to the COVID-19 crisis,” the lady solon said.
According to Herrera, the ARISE bill will help prevent more businesses, especially micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), from closing permanently. “A lot of businesses have already closed forever and we cannot afford to see more in the coming days because it also means that more people are losing their jobs,” she noted.
The ARISE bill seeks to protect and assist up to 15.7 million workers and create three million short-term jobs over the period of three years, and help up to 5.57 million workers at MSMEs.
Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) Party-List Raymond Democrito Mendoza echoed the desperate need for job generation, having learned in his capacity as Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs chairman the dire effect that the pandemic has had on overseas Filipino workers (OFW).
“We do not need to reinvent the wheel or embark on new grand plans to create jobs, we just have to ensure that the ‘Build, Build, Build’ and the legacy projects of the President would be for the development and industrialization in the countryside to spur employment,” he said.
“The Mindanao Railway Project of the President, although a single-track diesel-run railway, has great potential to generate the much-needed jobs. It will benefit not just the workers in Tagum-Davao-Digos areas but from as far as BARMM, Regions X, XII and Caraga if agri-industrial hubs will be developed and connected to the planned eight stations which are in Tagum; Carmen; Panabo; Mundiang; Davao Terminal; Toril; Sta Cruz; and Digos,” he pointed out.
The TUCP earlier projected that five million to 10 million Filipinos will lose their jobs due to the pandemic, with three to four million under a “no work, no pay” arrangement.
The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported a 17.7 percent unemployment rate for the second quarter of 2020–nearly a 400 percent increase from the 5.1 percent unemployment rate in the same quarter last year. This accounts for 7.3 million unemployed Filipinos.
“The President’s SONA should direct the Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Science and Technology, Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Transportation, and Department of Public Works and Highways to ensure job creation,” Mendoza reckoned.