Ladies and gentlemen, magandang araw po sa inyong lahat!

I’m glad to see our colleagues from other agencies and all the stakeholders as well as foreign institution development partners.

As we were planning for this pre-Job Summit conferences, we saw the need to have a sincere effort to draw out from the various stakeholders the real challenges of the sector in these challenging times.

So far, this whole-of-society approach that has outlined a set of valuable and bold policy and program recommendations leading to the Job Summit on May 1 has been inspiring and overwhelming. This only shows the passion and commitment of our people to rise above the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 health crisis and to build back better towards a more hopeful post-pandemic future.

At the start of developing the National Employment Recovery Strategy (or NERS) 2021-2022, we put businesses and workers at the center of the NERS outcomes. This means: restarting economic activities, restoring business and consumer confidence, upgrading and retooling the workforce, and facilitating labor market access. In line with President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s call for Trabaho, Negosyo, at Kabuhayan, we firmly believe that kapag masigla ang negosyo, lilikha ito ng marami at desenteng trabaho para sa manggagawang Pilipino.

COVID-19 has greatly challenged the business community with uncertainty, risks on liquidity, productivity, and operational capacity.

It has become imperative to re-examine our business models, implementation adjustments in our business operations including new working arrangements that will keep the business alive and functioning.  The speedy transition to digitalization has made it even more demanding as business processes needed to adapt to the obstacles of the pandemic. These realities on the ground and more have led to the wait-and-see attitude of some, if not more, market players.

The workers’ sector has been equally challenged as they faced the vulnerability of keeping their jobs or adjusting to newer functions, and even shifting their requirements to different skill-sets.

We will adjust, we will reform, we will re-structure to survive and win. Adjusting in the right way is important so we can reopen gradually and in a calibrated manner, with strict compliance to minimum public health protocol standards. Following this health protocol is also critical, as we all say to bring down continuously COVID cases, bringing it down will allow us to reopen further.

This is the virtuous cycle we want to achieve. Frankly, we were already experiencing it late last year until February of this year. Habang nag-re-reopen tayo, bumababa ang COVID cases, until the wave came at pumasok ‘yung bagon surge nitong March. So, we really have to be careful in achieving this balancing act of preserving lives and also livelihoods.

Hence, we cannot overemphasize the value of social dialogue, synergy, cooperation, and commitment of all the stakeholders as our country journeys on the road to a healthy and resilient economic and employment recovery. All your inputs in this dialogue will serve as a living document that will be reflected and put into action in the business and labor agenda sector. This sectoral agenda, including the NERS Eight-Point Action Agenda, shall be integral to our country’s economic recovery under RECHARGE PH and the updated Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2017-2022.

Before we finish, let us thank our fellow Cabinet Members who are part of the NERS Task Force for their support in these recovery efforts. We would also like to cite the NERS technical working group and the NERS Secretariat for all the technical and administrative preparations that make the Task Force’s work easier.

Lastly, we would like to recognize our development partners: the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the International Labor Organization (ILO), and the World Bank (WB). They provided technical assistance and the provision of resource persons in the Job Summit and all its related activities. In particular, we have learned that no less than the Country Directors of ADB and ILO—Mr. Kelly Bird and Mr. Khalid Hassan, respectively—are attending all the preparatory and coordination meetings, even late at night. Salamat po.

As we deal with the complexities of this pandemic, we need to work together during this most challenging period of our nation. We must go beyond trying to survive individually and aim to overcome as one people to win our goal of a more hopeful future. Remember what the Chinese sage Confucius once said, “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

Thus, we are truly grateful to all our stakeholders for your efforts and we are confident that together, we will recover and rise as one. Together we will overcome and together we will win.

Maraming salamat po at mabuhay tayong lahat!

Date of Release: 23 April 2021