A lawmaker on Tuesday said Congress must swiftly pass the proposed Bayanihan to Arise As One Act or the Bayanihan 3 in order to provide relief to Filipinos, especially the working class and the most vulnerable.
Marikina City Rep. Stella Quimbo made the call after the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported that the unemployment rate for February 2021 rose to 8.8 percent.
Quimbo said high unemployment has persisted throughout the pandemic, noting that the reimposed enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) puts workers at even greater risk and takes away the pay of the 5.25 million no work, no pay workers in affected areas.
“For many Filipino families who have already been reeling financially from the past year, it will only be that much harder to put food on the table. In this light, we urgently need the government to step in with greater and better COVID response and recovery measures,” Quimbo said.
Quimbo said for the ECQ to be effective, households must be assured that they can meet their basic needs while under quarantine.
“Kaya kailangan ng ayuda (That’s why cash assistance is needed). Wage subsidies are also needed to help businesses cover costs and prevent further job loss,” she said.
The proposal, she said, provides PHP52 billion to help subsidize wages of workers in small businesses, in addition to another PHP30 billion for assistance to the unemployed, and PHP108 billion for additional social amelioration.
She said subsidies for coronavirus disease (Covid-19) testing in the workplace or for public transport operators would help ensure that areas frequented by workers are maintaining minimum health standards, and that the risk of transmission is minimized for those who cannot work from home.
Quimbo added that assistance is likewise needed for critically impacted businesses so they can migrate to online platforms, retool their workers, and thus, survive the pandemic.
“Relative to all the losses we’ve sustained, and with more losses still forthcoming, the Covid fiscal response allocated thus far is clearly insufficient. Government needs to spend to provide immediate relief to Filipinos. Ang kailangan po ngayon ay (What we need now is) Bayanihan 3,” she said.
Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, meanwhile, said the headlines on unemployment obscure important details in the jobs report.
Salceda highlighted that the actual employed persons increased by 1.905 million from January to February 2021.
“This is largely due to a recovery in labor force participation rate, a development we attribute to the continued opening of the economy from January to February, the motivation to look for work due to low government spending on unemployment assistance and other social amelioration programs, and the increased capacity of public transportation, which has allowed wage-earners to return to work,” Salceda said.
Salceda said growth in employed persons was largest among wage and salary workers (additional 824,000), particularly those in private establishments (additional 332,000).
He said the self-employed without employees, like online sellers, freelancers, vendors, increased by 697,000 month-on-month.
He, however, pointed out as an alarming sign the big decline in family-operated farm or business, which declined by an “eye-popping 17 percent” in one month from January to February 2021.
“This indicates that while big businesses are still surviving, and some in fact are thriving, small and medium family businesses continue to close,” he said.
Salceda said unemployment will only decline significantly once there is reasonable certainty that lockdowns will no longer be necessary moving forward.
“This makes quick, safe, and efficient mass vaccination the most critical jobs recovery intervention,” he said.
Source: Philippines News Agency