THE chairman of the House committee on ways and means has said the second quarter job figures from the Labor Force Survey (LFS) of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) show the resilience of the Philippine economy, and described the data as “almost miraculous.”
Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, panel chairman, also laid out an outline for a job-creation plan for the rest of the year.
“The second quarter job numbers are almost miraculous, and demonstrate that the country’s underlying economy remains fundamentally resilient, despite seemingly slower progress in aggregate demand. This is a strongly encouraging sign that our economy can return to its high-growth path as soon as we can defeat coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19). At the same time, we will have to work on restoring confidence among consumers and businesses,” Salceda said.
“7.5 million more Filipinos went to work in the second quarter compared to the first quarter. This is a remarkable development. The unemployment rate also declined from the April highs of 17.7%. This means that as we gradually reopen the economy, we will see further improvements in the job situation,” Salceda added.
According to the LFS data, year-on-year, the number of unemployed persons increased by 2.1 million Filipinos, but declined 37% compared to the first quarter, when the most stringent lockdowns were implemented.
“We should be able to achieve further improvements during the rest of the year, with the Bayanihan II stimulus coming, and if we can keep COVID-19 contained. I already have the assurance of the Executive that there will be funding for ‘enhanced Build, Build, Build,” Salceda said.
“Around 25 cents of every peso spent on infrastructure goes to labor costs, so infrastructure will be crucial. In the private sector, I also expect an immediate boost of at least 300,000 new jobs due to the passage of the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) and the investor confidence and certainty that it will induce. I hope the Senate passes this soon,” he said.
Bulacan airport, digital economy improvements to create more jobs
“The need for job creation is also why I strongly pushed for a revision of the proposed New Manila International Airport Franchise and the adjacent economic zone. Under the original proposal, the franchise and ecozone components would have been tackled together in one bill, with potentially contentious tax and economic provisions,” Salceda said.
Salceda submitted an urgent aide memoire to the House leadership outlining his recommended changes to the original proposal under House Bill No. 7241. The subsequently revised franchise under House Bill No. 7507 and ecozone bill under House Bill No. 7575 both recognize Salceda as a main author.
“I asked the House leadership to reconsider the provisions, separate the franchise bill, increase the potential financial returns to the government, revise the tax provisions to make it consistent with tax reform, and define the extent of the ecozone more clearly. All recommendations, which I manifested in an urgent aide memoire to the leadership, were fully adopted, and as a result, we were able to bring the House to a quick and strong consensus on both the airport and the ecozone. Because all contentious issues were already resolved amicably, we were able to get the franchise approved very quickly – in two weeks,” Salceda said.
Salceda added the shift to the digital economy and to agriculture was the main driver of improvements in the job figures.
“Sectoral growth mostly came from the newly self-employed and the farm sector. This is why I am pushing for the Faster Internet Bill, the Satellite Liberalization Act, and exempting online barter and small online businesses from taxation. The small online businesses are the new saviors of the economy, along with our farmers,” Salceda said.
Salceda is also the leading proponent of the loan condonation and restructuring program for Agrarian Reform beneficiaries (ARBs), which was adopted in the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act. The measure is expected to release up to 1.228 million hectares of land for more modern and more value-adding agricultural development, and will benefit some 682,000 ARBs.
“It’s a relief that we were able to reemploy 7.7% of the labor force in the span of a quarter. Clearly, the fundamentals of the economy are strong. We will do even better with CREATE and other job-creating initiatives such as the 740-billion Bulacan Airport, and improvements in the digital economy,” Salceda concluded.