Mr. President, my fellow Cabinet Members, our stakeholders from the labor, business, and civil society, development partners, legislators, ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.

On behalf of the National Employment Recovery Strategy or NERS Task Force, may we present to you our 8-Point Employment Recovery Agenda.

This Agenda recognizes the issues raised before the Job Summit on restarting economic activities, restoring business confidence, upgrading and retooling the workforce, and facilitating labor market access in the wake of COVID-19. As such, we are here to present some of the different programs of the government that can address the recommendations, framed through the aforementioned 8 points of the Agenda.

The Agenda encapsulates the convergence programs of the various Departments and Agencies that contribute to the overall objective of generating more employment and entrepreneurship opportunities while reviving companies affected by the pandemic. What’s more, the Agenda will help to improve employability and productivity of workers, while providing support to existing and emerging businesses.

The initial funding requirements for the implementation of the majority of enrolled programs are charged against the current appropriations of member agencies.

First in the list is the Proposed Wage Subsidy for Private Sector Workers intended to preserve and protect existing employment. The proposed program shall provide subsidy equivalent to Php 8,000.00 per month for a maximum of 3 months to affected workers through the establishment’s payroll system.

This will support the recommendation of the business and labor sectors of the need for a wage subsidy program or income support for heavily-affected industries. This would also be a form of pump-priming the economy.

Priority will be given to Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), especially those that either implemented or are currently implementing flexible work arrangements, and those under temporary closure but intending to return to business operation. MSMEs that also availed of the Small Business Corporation’s (SBCorp) COVID-19 Assistance to Restart Enterprises (or CARES) program under BAYANIHAN 2 will also be prioritized.

The Proposed Wage Subsidy, currently being evaluated by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), intends to benefit 1M workers.

Second is the conduct of this Job Summit, which demonstrates the “whole-of-society” approach towards employment recovery.

The 20 NERS Task Force agencies partnered with the International Labor Organization (ILO), World Bank (WB), and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to conduct focus group discussions (FGDs) for various sectors leading to the Pre-Summit Dialogues. These events—gathering together more than 500 organizations with more than 2,000 participants—helped to identify priority action agenda to address the challenges of the labor market under the “New Normal.”

Third, supporting the passage of priority legislations and policies will strengthen economic and employment recovery. As we safely reopen the Philippine economy, recovery efforts and reforms need to continue.

Among the recommendations from the business sector include the review of the Investment Priorities Plan (IPP) and removing geographical qualifications in availing subsidies, incentives, and programs, among others. From the labor sector, these include the promotion of taxation policies based on greater equity, as well as a review of the implementation of the Mandanas Ruling.

The passage of priority legislations will reinvigorate the economy to ensure an environment where investment and entrepreneurship thrives, and employment, by extension, is revitalized. The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is supportive of the passage of these bills as it would further boost the economy’s recovery, enhance the country’s competitiveness, and provide new economic opportunities for Filipinos. These include amendments to the Public Service Act (PSA), the Retail Trade Liberalization Act (RTLA), and the Foreign Investments Act (FIA).

We also call upon the various government agencies to support local preference in their procurement—particularly with PPEs—to support the manufacturing sector that heeded our call to repurpose to help our healthcare sector. This will contribute to the preservation of these companies and the employment of their workers during the pandemic. We hope that government procurement policy can consider this noble initiative.

Fourth, the existing Retooling and Upskilling Programs of concerned agencies will be utilized to address shifts in the labor market and ensure a future-ready Filipino workforce with the skills and qualifications to answer post-pandemic demands.

This will support the recommendations of the business and workers’ sectors focusing on education and training on modernization, digitalization, technology, and innovation to help them adapt to the digital economy.

With the resumption of economic activities, the workforce needs to adapt to the changes in the business operations through flexible learning delivery modes depending on the capacity and need of the industries. These programs are expected to cater more than 400,000 beneficiaries with total allocated funds of Php11.1B.

The government has has been implementing a number of projects and initiatives to reskill and upskill our workers. DTI has the Pivot Embrace Technology (PET) Project that aid workers displaced by the pandemic. We’ve also partnered with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) on the Skills Training for Employment/ Entrepreneurship Program (STEEP) to provide TESDA graduates with access to training on entrepreneurship.

Meanwhile, TESDA has its own share of initiatives, like the Tsuper Iskolar Program, the TESDA 911 App, and the implementation of the Tulong Trabaho Act. On the other hand, the Department of Tourism (DOT) has its Community-Based Tourism Organization (CBTO) Re-Start Program and manpower trainings to retool and upskill tourism workers and stakeholders. Also, the Department of Science and Technology’s (DOST) Project SPARTA was launched to enable the industry of data science and analytics, as well as advance smart governance practices.

Fifth is the full implementation of youth employability programs. Due to imposed lockdowns and travel restrictions in 2020, the youth employment rate lowered to 78.5% and the unemployment rate increased to 21.5% in 2020 from 13.6% in 2019.

This underscores the need to build the capacity and skills of the future workforce. To this end, our youth employment programs are anchored in addressing youth unemployment and job-skill mismatch.

This would also support recommendations to link graduates to industry partners, offer career advocacy and employment coaching, implement a work-guarantee program, and intensify employment referral and placement by improving systems for skills profiling.

To this end, DTI has been implementing the Youth Entrepreneurship Program (or YEP) to help young Filipinos develop their entrepreneurial skills by offering them a comprehensive package of interventions. Meanwhile, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has programs like JobStart Philippines, as well as career advocacy and employment coaching. Likewise, the Department of Agriculture (DA) have their EasyAgri Scholar Program, and their Mentoring and Attracting Youth in Agribusiness (or MAYA) Program.

Sixth is extending assistance to establishments through low-interest loans, deferment of applicable fees, and upgrading of processes. These COVID-19 relief options for businesses will not only ensure the health of the economy but preserve jobs and encourage employment generation as well.

Among the recommendations of the business sector include facilitating easier access to financing, and providing entrepreneurial education and business starting assistance, among others. From the labor sector, these include assisting startup businesses, improving financial literacy, and providing trainings on entrepreneurship.  

We’ve already mentioned the CARES program that offers financial assistance to MSMEs affected by the pandemic. However, DTI also has programs like the Shared Service Facilities (SSF) Program, which can improve MSME competitiveness by providing machinery, equipment, and others under a shared system. Additionally, we have the CTRL+Biz: Reboot Now webinar series, where MSMEs can learn about starting their business online.

DOST likewise has similar programs like their Small Enterprise Technology Program (SETUP), and their Community Empowerment Thru Science and Technology (CEST). Even the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) has their Enterprise Development and Entrepreneurship Development (EDES) Program.  

Seventh is providing social protection to vulnerable groups. To better deliver social protection, capacity-building on livelihood for the working poor, vulnerable, and marginalized workers—either for individual or group livelihood projects or undertakings—is necessary. This will ensure equal distribution of assistance.

Livelihood programs will also assist in the economic recovery and rehabilitation of the livelihoods of affected families after the community quarantine is lifted, with priority given to the informal sector.

This will support the recommendations of the business sector for the inclusivity of industries, and the inclusion of refugees, asylum seekers, and stateless persons through National Monitoring Mechanisms. Meanwhile, the labor sector recommended providing income support to families through an efficient, effective, and speedy manner, as well as guaranteeing and protecting workers’ rights, among others. 

Our Livelihood Seeding Program – Negosyo Serbisyo Sa Barangay (LSP-NSB) Program, which brings government services like business development assistance closer to the people, is already aiding our people in identified barangays. On the other hand, DOLE has an Integrated Livelihood and Emergency Employment Program, as well an Integrated Livelihood Program. The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) also has its own Sustainable Livelihood Programs.

Lastly, the government will continue to implement and monitor programs with high impact on employment. The government’s flagship programs drive employment growth across a diverse number of industries and local economies, while also fortifying the labor market against unrest in the global economy.

This is in support of the recommendations of the business sector to strengthen support to MSMEs and cooperatives, and improve infrastructure, internet, and transportation, among others. This also supports the labor sector’s recommendations to strengthen social dialogue mechanisms in government institutions by providing genuine representation from the labor sector.

To this end, for our massive infrastructure program, “Build, Build, Build” (or BBB) led by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the government allocated a total of Php1.1T for 2021, a 40%-increase of BBB budget as compared to last year. DPWH also has plans to beef up infrastructure in the regions. We also have the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-Asa Program, which encourages our people to return to their home provinces and assist them in this transition with support and incentives.

In sum, we have initially allocated Php1.14T for the convergence programs in the NERS 8-Point Employment Recovery Agenda under the 2021 General Appropriations Act (GAA). The same will be prioritized by implementing agencies in their 2022 budget proposals.

What’s more, our efforts here will support our economic recovery plan, the “Revitalizing Businesses, Investments, Livelihoods and Domestic Demand” (or REBUILD PH) Strategy. In particular, this will reinvigorate consumption and demand by creating and keeping jobs and sustaining income, which are key components in our strategy in creating a modern, dynamic, and responsible Philippines. Furthermore, these are reflected or consistent with the updated Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2017-2022.

Ultimately, this Agenda serves as a guide of the NERS Task Force in regaining the lost opportunities due to the pandemic and continue to provide fruitful employment to our people. And moving forward, the government has instituted medium- and long-term plans that would focus on restarting economic activities, restoring business confidence, upgrading and retooling the workforce, and facilitating labor market access.

But while there is so much we need to address, through a whole-of-government and whole-of-society coordination, we are confident that by working together, we can build back better towards a more sustainable and inclusive post-pandemic future. Together, we will recover and rise as one. Together, we will overcome and we will win.

Maraming salamat po at mabuhay ang manggagawang Pilipino!

Date of Release: 4 May 2021