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Manila Bulletin

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

proposed solutions to the economic crisis

Looking for ways to cope with the economic crisis? Searching for answers, immediate steps, emergency relief, extras, ideas or options?

Better yet, are you looking for long-term solutions to the chronic problems you see around you?

Like many internet users, this blogger is among the increasing number of people looking for answers and struggling to get by. As we breadwinners face the harsh realities, as our set of priorities tend to shrink towards "self" or "family" it is advisable to maintain a healthy sense of belonging to a community. This translates to having a sense of belonging to a nation. The complex links between the individual, the family, the society and the world can't be shrugged off, especially in times of trials.

While most would probably say "Leave it all to ___ (Deity's name)" or "Sipag at tiyaga lang ang kailangan" or "stop blaming government" and other comments that are rooted to many factors (misconceptions, prejudices, sheer lack of analytical capability, etc.), this blogger encourages readers to dig deeper to find the many fragments of truth. The sincere seeker may realize someday that eternal suffering is not what the deity would have wanted for humans, or that mere 'sipag at tiyaga' doesn't guarantee a 'nilaga' (because others continue to exploit the fruits of the industrious people's efforts) or that people in government do have clearly defined responsibilities (and abuses) that must be addressed before there can be genuine development. . . There may be a million words more waiting for us to read them in order for us to grasp what must be done. Here's this blog to suggest a step forward.

And now, a reposted article from Ibon Foundation.

Coping With The Crisis In 2009: Back To Basics

Written by IBON Media

Is it possible for the Philippine economy to emerge from the global crisis in 2009?

The global economic situation is expected to continue deteriorating until 2010 and even beyond, and the Philippines is going to be severely affected by the worsening crisis. Yet it is still possible to mitigate the effects on the country, and more importantly, to emerge from this period of crisis with a genuinely strengthening and forward-moving economy.

Various factors will come into fuller play by next year and action must be taken as soon as possible. The economy has been deteriorating steadily in recent years despite government hype and, as it is, growth has been slowing since the start of the year. The onset of global financial and economic turmoil however now pushes it into a deeper crisis that it is poorly equipped to deal with.

Economic distress

The slowdown that begun in 2008 and will carry through until next year is clear. Growth this year and next year could easily turn out the slowest in a decade. Joblessness will increase and add to the 4.1 million unemployed – estimated to include the jobless statistically removed from the labor force to lower officially reported figures – and 6.8 million underemployed as of 2007. The number of jobless and underemployed next year will very likely rise to well over 11-12 million.

Retrenchments and closures will be most immediately felt in the goods and services export sectors. Particularly affected will be the major sub sectors of electronics (67% of exports in 2007), apparel and clothing (5%), and furniture and woodcrafts (2%). The US in particular is the largest buyer of Philippine garments and furniture and receives 80% of total garments exports and 60% of total furniture exports. The crisis will weaken global demand for laptops, cameras and cellular phones which are the primary users of the semi-conductors and microprocessors that the country exports. As it is, the country’s export-oriented electronics sub sector employs some 500,000-600,000 workers. The US is also the world’s largest end-consumer of electronics.

The business process outsourcing (BPO) industry will also likely be badly affected with the US accounting for over two-thirds of foreign equity and 90% of BPO export revenue. The grand target of 940,000 BPO jobs by 2010 is even more impossible especially with employment at most at just 320,000 now. Similarly with local tourism and business travel outfits where hotels and restaurants will feel the pinch of less foreign and domestic visitors.

The jobs situation has clearly started to worsen in 2008. The number of jobless Filipinos drastically increased by 279,000 in October from the same period last year and increased the unemployment rate by 0.6 percentage points. Rough approximations correcting for the government's recent maneuver of underestimating unemployment place the number of jobless Filipinos at around 4.3 million and the unemployment rate at over 11 percent.

The important manufacturing sector lost another 159,000 jobs from the year before, the transport, storage and communication sector lost 10,000 jobs, and financial intermediation lost 4,000 jobs. These trends are likely to continue until next year and be aggravated by deteriorating jobs in construction, finance and wholesale and retail trade. Small and medium enterprises in particular will have a harder time borrowing with creditors preferring perceived "safer" large borrowers.

Filipinos working overseas in distressed countries and sectors face layoffs or at least lower incomes. This is not just in the US where the crisis first erupted but also wherever in the world they might be and no country is untouched by the tumult. The US is notable though in that over half of all remittances– reaching 52% or US$7.6 B of US$14.5 B in 2007– come from the US or via US-based banks.

Overseas Filipinos will do their best and be making even greater sacrifices to maintain remittances to their families in the country. But remittance flows are still certain to weaken in 2009 and perhaps even significantly. At the very least there will be a slowdown in deployments to the US, Europe, Middle East, East Asia and seaborne work where the overwhelming number of overseas Filipinos go and a corresponding drop in growth of remittances from abroad. The corresponding drop in household incomes will have repercussions on domestic sales of consumer goods and services and even of residential real estate.

The job losses and squeeze on wages, benefits and remittances will combine with rising prices and have an immediate impact on household incomes that will cause poverty to rise. But the spending will also have further depressing effects – possibly beginning with domestic wholesale, retailing and food services as stores and restaurants face lower consumer spending. Additional pressure comes from the generalized slowdown due to overall economic uncertainty, lower consumption, tighter credit and depressed investments. The poorer business sentiment and tightening of capital flows is already reflected in steep stock market drops and much higher interest rates.

External financing for the country is dropping steeply. The US$912 million net outflow of foreign portfolio investments in the January-October 2008 period is a drastic reversal from the US$3.7 billion inflow in the same period last year. Net FDI is going in the same direction and fell by more than half to US$1.1 billion in January-August 2008 from US$2.5 billion in the same period in 2007. There is also a strong possibility that the rate at which official development assistance (ODA) is declining will worsen in the coming years as donor governments prioritize domestic financing needs. As it is ODA has already fallen 30% to US$9.2 billion last year from US$13.2 billion in 2001.

Immediate relief and strengthening the economy

There are two stages in coping with the crisis. The first stage is to arrest the slowdown in economic activity and the corresponding worsening in unemployment, incomes and poverty. This is critical especially since the country has already been suffering record unemployment, falling incomes and rising poverty in the last few years.

The effects of the economic downturn must be countered by stimulating the economy through expansionary and, importantly, equity-building policies. This includes:

1. Providing immediate emergency food, income and work relief.
2. Increasing public spending on health care, basic education and housing for the people and restoring real per capita social services spending to at least 1997 levels.
3. Increasing public spending on labor-intensive and rural infrastructure projects that will directly improve people's livelihoods.
4. Public resources can be freed by:
• Suspending debt payments. This can begin with, but not be restricted to, debt to foreign creditors receiving bail-outs from their governments.
• Drastically reducing military spending.
• Cracking down on corruption. This is especially critical to prevent leakages into politicians' electoral war chests for 2010.
5. Giving priority to Filipino producers in government procurement and aid-funded projects.
6. Implementing a P125 across the board nationwide wage hike and a PhP3,000 increase in government salaries.
7. Removing the VAT on oil products and increasing taxation of wealth, luxury goods and services, and on unproductive assets and transactions.
8. Reducing interest rates while ensuring that credit remains available.
There is also a need to immediately stabilize capital flows with capital controls, especially against outflows right now, and supporting the exchange rate. Capital controls must be used to defend against speculative attacks or financial transactions not related to trade and production.

The advanced capitalist countries are pushed to become all the more aggressive in pushing to open up neo-colonial countries as vents for their crisis. There are two particular areas of concern. The first is how the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and other creditors will exploit the situation to leverage further policy conditionalities through their loans and aid. The second is how free trade agreements (FTAs) will be packaged as solutions for slowing domestic economies. This includes not just FTAs between vastly unequal parties but also those packaged as intra-Third World deals that merely create regional production lines for the benefit of the big powers. All maneuvering such as these must be vigorously opposed.

The second stage involves laying the foundations for economic development and reducing internal and external vulnerabilities to inevitable crises. Unsound fundamentals do not just make short-term prospects poor but also make long-term development prospects bleak. The welfare of tens of millions of Filipinos will not improve given current trends of deteriorating manufacturing, backward agriculture, poor savings and investment rates (i.e., capital accumulation), failing social services, falling incomes and rising poverty. In terms of the overall economy it is particularly critical to genuinely strengthen domestic agriculture and industry.

The economy's problems are far beyond piecemeal solutions. A radical change in socioeconomic policies is needed if there is going to be any hope of lifting the tens of millions of poor Filipinos out of their deprivation. This much is clear from the Philippine's poor development experience and chronic poverty over the last six decades: the stubbornly elite-biased and increasingly "free market"-oriented policies are a development dead-end. Alternative socioeconomic policies must be geared towards what is strategically necessary to improve the economy and people's welfare. In the concrete economic and political conditions of Philippine society today this can only mean genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization. IBON Features

Meanwhile, here are some practical tips that might allow you to earn extra cash / income:
- acquire new skills through trainings, seminars, self-study, etc. to enable you to get better job opportunities in the future
- sell your used items (collectors' items have high value), recycleable stuff (plastics, metals, glass, etc.), old newspaper, books, etc.
- make & sell handicrafts and other affordable products, make / sell / resell food, consumable goods or accessories / products
- find a franchise / go into franchising
- online ads, pay-per-post and pay-per-click options
- part-time teaching or tutoring
- many other freelance or part time work / hobbies and even odd-jobs that would not compromise your individuality
- invent, innovate, patent and sell
- consultancy
- other small-scale livelihood activities
- do volunteer or charity work (hey, these activities might not earn you cash but these'll earn you good karma)

In the long run, though band-aid solutions may keep you afloat, there remains the need for 'radical' reforms, policy and structural changes, that will create real jobs, provide sufficient food and decent living conditions, and gear you up towards fulfilling the basics. Society may seem like a rat-race to you, but if you can read this and feel a sense of hope inside of you, my friend, it only means you are not a rat. You are a human being. LoL

At kung nais mo namang marinig mula sa Kinatawan ng Partidong Anakpawis, sa layuning higit maunawaan ang krisis pang-ekonomiya at anu-ano ang patakarang maaaring gawin / simulan (sa wikang Filipino, sa madaling salita), basahin dito ang kopya ng inihandang talumpati ni Rep. Mariano. Ang pampublikong dokumentong ito ay para sa lahat ng interesado. Sana ay ipagpatuloy mo ang iyong paghahanap ng mga kasagutan at makabuluhang solusyon sa mga problema ng bansa.

Privilege Speech of Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano
G. Speaker, mga kapwa ko Kinatawan, hinahamon ng Kinatawang ito ang Kapulungang ito na bigyan ng kagyat at makabuluhang solusyon ang nagpapatuloy at lumulubhang pagmasaker sa trabaho at kabuhayan ng mga manggagawa sa buong bansa.
Pagpasok ng taong 2009, ginulantang tayo ng pag-uwi ng mga Overseas Filipino Workers na nawalan ng hanap-buhay, maramihan at malakihang tanggalan sa trabaho sa mga lokal na pagawaan, pagsasara ng mga kumpanya at pagsahol ng kalagayan ng mga manggagawa.
Ayon mismo sa datos ng gobyerno, mahigit 590,000 OFWs ang nanganganib na mawalan ng trabaho at 236,000 manggagawa sa iba’t-ibang industriya ang bulnerable sa mga tanggalan, higit 5,000 empleyado ng gobyerno ang masisibak dahil sa programang rationalization.
Iniulat ng Department of Labor and Employment o DoLE sa ginanap na Multisectoral Action Workshop Conference na mula Oktubre 2008 hanggang Enero 2009, may 40,000 obrero na ang nawalan ng trabaho at kalakhan ay nasa mga industriyang pang export gaya ng garments, semiconductor electronics, handicrafts at pagmamanupaktura. Habang 35,000 manggagawa naman ang nakakaranas ngayon ng pinaiksing oras ng trabaho. Umabot na rin sa higit 5,000 OFWs ang nawalan ng trabaho sa Taiwan, United Arab Emirates, United States, Australia at iba pang bansa.
Ang nangyari noong Oktubre hanggang Enero ay patikim pa lang. Mas nakakalula at nakakabahala ang tinatayang bilang ng mga mawawalan ng trabaho sa mga susunod na araw. Sinasabi ng World Economic Forum na 230 milyong manggagawa sa buong mundo ang mawawalan ng trabaho ngayong 2009 dahil sa krisis.
G. Speaker, bago pa man pumutok ang global financial crisis noong nakaraang taon, nagrehistro na ng pinakamalaking bilang ng mga Pilipinong walang trabaho sa ilalim ng gobyernong Arroyo na 11.4 porsyento noong 2005. Kahit na binagu-bago ng DoLE ang depinisyon ng may trabaho, napakarami pa rin ang walang hanapbuhay.
Sa ngayon, kahit na itago pa ng DoLE at Malakanyang ang aktwal na datos ng tanggalan sa trabaho at epekto ng krisis sa mamamayan at pagmukhaing resilient o matatag umano ng lokal na ekonomya sa pagsalag sa krisis, nagdudumilat ang katotohanan na sa bawat araw, daan-daan hanggang libong bilang ng mga manggagawa sa mga industriya at agrikultura ang nawawalan ng trabaho at kabuhayan. Direktang epekto nito ang papadagdag na milyong bilang ng mga Pilipinong lalong naghihirap at nagugutom.
Kung ang mga malalaking negosyo gaya ng Intel, Panasonic, Texas Instruments at iba pa pati na malalaking bangko ay apektado ng krisis, nakahandusay at naghihingalo naman ang mga small and medium enterprises o SMEs na halos 90 porsyento ng mga empresa sa bansa. Kung ang mga dayuhang negosyo’y umaaray sa ngayon, matagal nang bugbog sa latay ng krisis ang mga maliliit na lokal na negosyo at mga cottage industries.
May higit 11 milyon ang naka-empleyo sa sektor ng agrikultura kaya’t inaasahan na marami sa mga manggagawa sa mga corporate farms, asukarera, koprahan at taniman ng mga produktong pang-export ang mawawalan ng trabaho. Sa DOLE Fil sa Bukidnon, may 850 manggagawa na ang apektado ng reduced workweek. Mas masahol pa ang kondisyon sa ibang empresa nagmamanupaktura ng export goods na halos 4 hanggang 5 araw kada buwan na lamang ang pasok sa trabaho.
Kabilang sa mga pangunahing produktong pang export natin ang niyog, saging at pinya. Sa pagtindi ng krisis, hihigpit din ang merkado ng mga dayuhang bansa at babagsak ang demand sa ating mga produktong agrikultural.
Mr. Speaker, naghain ang gobyerno ng economic resiliency plan at ang DOLE nama’y may mga contingency measures na tutugon umano sa epekto ng krisis. Subalit sino ba talaga ang puprotektahan at tutulungan ng mga planong ito ng gobyerno?
Naglaan pa ng 330 bilyong pisong badyet para sa economic stimulus package subalit 12.5 bilyong piso dito ay kukunin sa Social Security System na pondong panseguro ng mga manggagawa. Ang mga manggagawa na ang ang nawalan at nangangailangan, sila pa rin ang gustong nakawan ng pondo.
Kamakailan lang, pinirmahan ni DOLE Secretary Marianito Roque ang DOLE Advisory No. 2 na naglatag ng mga direktiba para sa Flexible Work Arrangements o mutually acceptable work schedules gaya ng Compressed Workweek, Reduction of Work Days, Job Rotation, Forced Leave at Flexible Holidays.
Sa esensya, pinayagan at nilegalisa lamang ng DOLE ang mga pleksibleng pamamaraan ng paggawa na matagal nang pinaiiral ng mga kapitalista at nilalabanan naman ng mga manggagawa. Ginawa ito ng DOLE pangunahin upang isalba ang negosyo at kita ng mga kapitalista at hindi upang ipagtanggol ang interes ng mga manggagawa.
Mr. Speaker, sa panahon man ng sagana o krisis, ang mga manggagawa ang nagdudusa at nagsasakripisyo. Ang uring manggagawa ang lumilikha ng yaman ng lipunan, ngunit sila rin ang higit na pinahihirapan at inaalisan ng mga karapatan ano man ang panahon.
Sa panahon ng krisis, unang-unang nasasakripisyo ang interes ng mga manggagawa. Kung ituring sila ngayo’y parang mga basura na basta na lamang itatapon at aalisin sa trabaho matapos na pakinabangan at pagtubuan ng mga negosyante ang kanilang lakas paggawa.
Ang mga tagumpay na ipinaglaban at napagtagumpayan ng mga manggagawa, gaya ng makabuluhang sahod, mga benepisyo at iba pang karapatan ay sapilitan at marahas na binabawi ng mga kapitalista para makapiga pa ng higit na kita at tubo. Sa panahon ng matinding krisis, higit pang pagsasamantala at pagpapahirap ang tanging solusyon at opsyon ng mga kapitalista.
Gaya ng sa mga sigalot sa paggawa sa Nestle, Nissan at Toyota na napakatagal na ngunit di pa rin nareresolba at patuloy pa ring ipinagkakait ng mga kapitalista ang karapat dapat sa mga manggagawa. Bukod pa sa hambalos ng krisis, malawakan ang nagaganap na pangiggipit at panunupil sa mga manggagawa, laluna sa mga unyon na patuloy na naggigiit ng kanilang sahod, trabaho at karapatan.
Inamin mismo ng malalaking Chambers of Commerce sa bansa na ang problema ng mga malalaking kapitalista at employer sa ngayon ay ang napakamahal na ‘cost of doing business’ sa Pilipinas. Natatakot ang mga negosyante na mabawasan ang labis-labis nilang tubo. Kaya nga ginagawa nila ang lahat upang ibaba ang halaga ng produksyon para mapreserba at selyuhan ang kanilang mga tubo o profit. Sukat isara nila ang kanilang mga pabrika dito at lumipat sa Tsina o Vietnam kung saan mas mura ang lakas paggawa.
Mabilis na itinugon ng mga employer ang panukalang bawas sahod at sweldo upang maiwasan ang tanggalan. Hindi ito katanggap-tanggap dahil di tama na pamiliin ang mga manggagawa sa pagitan ng makabuluhang sahod at trabaho. Parehong kailangan at karapatan ng mga manggagawa ang sapat at nakabubuhay na sahod at sapat at permanenteng trabaho lalo na sa panahon ng krisis.
Kabalintunaan ang burden sharing na sinasabi ng mga kapitalista at gobyerno. Sa katunayan, may mga kapitalista pang ginagamit ang krisis para higit na pagsamantalahan ang mga manggagawa at gipitin ang mga unyon.
G. Speaker, sa pagtingin ng Kinatawang ito, walang katanggap-tanggap na paraan ng pagsasamantala sa mga manggagawa na higit na pinatitindi ngayon sa porma ng mga tanggalan sa trabaho, kontraktwalisasyon, pagbawas sa sweldo at kita at panggigipit sa mga karapatang pantao at karapatang pang-unyon ng mga manggagawa sa bansa pati na ng lahat ng OFWs.
Dahil sa katangian ng ekonomya ng Pilipinas na ini export ang mga produkto habang nakaasa sa mga imported ang lokal na consumer at mga industriya (export-oriented, import-dependent), mas mabilis at mas mabigat ang epekto ng krisis sa ating bansa. Todong ibinuyangyang ng gobyerno ang lokal na pamilihan sa napakaraming dayuhang produkto at kapital kaya nanatiling lugmok ang mga maliliit na lokal na negosyo. Laging pinapaboran ang interes ng dayuhang namumuhunan, pinamalagi at ininstitusyunalisa ang mababang pasahod at masahol na kalagayan sa paggawa ng mga manggagawang Pilipino.
Dahil walang tunay na repormang agraryo na nakabatay sa pagwawakas sa monopolyo sa lupa at libreng pamamahagi ng lupa na siya sanang magtitiyak ng maunlad na produksyong agrikultural, lilikha ng mas maraming trabaho at maglalatag ng pundasyon para sa tunay na pambansang industriyalisasyon, nanatiling atrasado at nakalubog sa krisis ang ekonomya ng Pilipinas. Pinalala pa ito ng palagiang pagtalima ng gobyerno sa mga patakarang pabor sa dayuhang interes.
Isa sa mga nakahaing solusyon ng gobyerno sa krisis sa trabaho ay ang higit na pagpaparami ng mga OFWs. Walang pakialam ang gobyerno kung sa mga mapanganib na lugar gaya ng Iraq, Lebanon o Nigeria mapadpad ang mga manggagawang Pilipino. Pagpapatindi pa rin sa patakarang labor export ang tinitiyak ng gobyerno. Walang makabuluhang pagpapaunlad sa mga industriya, pagtulong sa mga Small and Medium Enterprises o SMEs at paglikha ng disenteng trabaho.
Mr. Speaker, mga kapwa ko Kinatawan, marapat ring mairehistro na mismong ang mga patakaran at prinsipyo sa ekonomya na masugid na isinusulong ng gobyernong Macapagal-Arroyo na sumusunod sa programang neo-liberalisasyon at dikta ng malalaking dayuhang bangko at kapitalista ang napatunayang nagdala sa bansa sa bangin ng krisis at kumunoy ng kahirapan.
G. Speaker, nagmumungkahi ang Kinatawang ito ng mga kagyat na pamamaraan upang makabuluhang matugunan ang krisis sa trabaho at krisis sa ekonomya ng bansa. Gayundin, kailangang maglatag ng mga maka-mamamayan at makabayang adyenda para sa pangmatagalang tugon sa global economic crisis at sa mga malalalang epekto nito.
Una, protektahan ang lokal na empleyo sa paraang hindi nakokompromiso ang karapatan ng mga manggagawa. Itigil ang tanggalan at pribatisasyon sa pampublikong sektor. Dapat ring himukin ng gobyerno ang mga employer na huwag magtanggal o magbawas ng mga manggagawa.
Ikalawa, lumikha ng mga lokal na trabaho sa pamamagitan ng pagbibigay suporta sa mga SMEs, paglikha ng trabaho sa sektor ng agrikultura.
Ikatlo, ibaba at kontrolin ang presyo ng mga pangunahing bilihin at serbisyo. Unang dapat maalis ang Value Added Tax (VAT) at Oil Deregulation Law.
Ikaapat, kagyat na pagpapatupad sa moratorium sa paniningil ng withholding tax at pagbibigay ng tax refund sa mga manggagawa.
Pang-lima, dapat itaas ang badyet para sa social services na siyang direktang tutugon sa pangangailangan ng ating mamamayan. Sa halip na ibayad sa utang panlabas, dapat ilaan na lamang sa serbisyong pangkalusugan, edukasyon at iba pang kapaki-pakinabang na pagkakagastusan ang pinaghirapang buwis ng ating mga manggagawa.
Pang-anim, protektahan ang mga pondong panseguro ng mga manggagawa gaya ng pondo ng SSS, GSIS, Philhealth at OWWA. Hindi mapapayagan na ang pondong pinaghirapan ng mga manggagawa ay basta na lamang gamitin at dambungin para sa interes ng iilan.
Pang huli, isang tunay na repormang agraryo na nakabatay sa pagwasak sa monopolyo sa lupa at magpapatupad ng libreng pamamahagi ng lupa sa mga magsasaka upang tunay na sumulong at umunlad ang agrikultura na siyang magbibigay lakas sa paglikha ng mga industriya, empleyo at maglalatag ng daan para sa tunay na pambansang industriyalisasyon at tungo sa tunay na pag-unlad ng pambansang ekonomya.


additional items compiled for sharing:

( President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo unveiled several government initiatives to assist vulnerable industries and Filipinos who would be displaced as a result of the deepening global financial crisis.

In her keynote speech during the multi-sectoral jobs summit on "Joining Hands Against the Global Crisis" last Feb. 9 at the Heroes' Hall of Malacanang, the President cited eight specific measures and actions in response to the concerns raised by various stakeholders during the tripartite meeting that started two weeks ago.

These measures include the condonation of penalties and surcharges on loans of members of the Social Security System (SSS), cutting down the cost of doing business and the establishment of a standby fund from which displaced seafarers and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) can draw startup capital for business ventures.

The President also directed the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to establish a stand-by fund that can be easily accessed to help capitalize startup businesses or finance further studies and training of displaced seafarers, land-based overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) including workers being laid off in export-oriented industries.

"The DOLE is the lead in carrying out the government's program for the returning expatriates and the retrenched export workers. The first component of this program is an Expatriate and Export Workers' Livelihood Support Fund in the amount of one billion pesos financed by OWWA for the OFWs and supported by government lending institutions such as the Development Bank of the Philippines, the Land Bank and the SB Corporation," the President said.

She also directed the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) to implement training programs and interventions that would be initially implemented in the CALABARZON (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon) area, Subic, Clark and Mactan.

The President said government is also reducing the cost of doing business by providing fuel subsidy to firms in transporting workers in the export processing zones.

The President said that government financial institutions (GFIs) would provide loan facilities, such as working capital, to creditworthy firms.

The President also asked the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) and the Chamber of Philippine Industries headed by businessman Jess Arranza to become an integral part of the government's Anti-Smuggling Task Force to further stimulate domestic production and product demand and consumption by addressing smuggling.

She also said the concern raised over the possibility of imposing a moratorium on wages and other economic benefits for a limited period can be discussed by labor and management when wages are due for annual review between July and August.

Among those present at the jobs summit were top business leaders and other social partners and stakeholders representing the non-government organizations, labor, academe, church, and government organizations. (Feb.9)

Members of the House Committee on Economic Affairs grilled National Economic Development Agency (NEDA) Director General Ralph Recto over the P330-billion ($6,316,321,374 at the current exchange rate of $1=P47.496) economic stimulus package at a hearing, February 4. The stimulus package, which is much touted by the Arroyo administration, turned out to be a mere repackaging of old programs.
Dennis Arroyo, NEDA National Planning and Policy Staff (NPSS) director, presented the Arroyo administration’s so-called ‘economic resiliency plan’ during the said hearing.
While acknowledging the vulnerability of certain sectors to the global economic crisis, NEDA’s Arroyo maintained that the Philippine economy is resilient.
NEDA’s Arroyo presented the components of the P330-billion ($6,316,321,374) stimulus fund - P160- billion ($3,368,704,733) for the incremental budget; P40 billion ($842,176,183) for corporate and individual tax breaks; P100 billion ($2,105,440,458) for government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs), government financial institutions (GFIs) and private sector and P30 billion ($631,632,137) for temporary additional benefits to Government Service Insurance System (GSIS)/Social Security System (SSS)/ PhilHealth members.
However, Representatives from the opposition were not convinced.
Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez retorted, “The P160 billion is the increase from the 2008 to the 2009 national budget. The P40 billion tax relief …this we approved in the middle of 2008. It’s hardly part of the stimulus package.”
Rodriguez asked NEDA Chief Ralph Recto, “[This is like] recycling what we’ve approved. Isn’t this misleading?”
Unable to answer the question, Recto replied, “The full benefits will be felt in 2009.”
When Bayan Muna Representative Teodoro Casiño Jr. asked if there is a concrete response from the Arroyo government to address the global economic crisis, Recto replied that there was none, “If you’re looking for a supplemental stimulus budget, di kaya ng Pilipinas ‘yan. (The Philippines cannot afford that.)”
Recto admitted that they are financially conservative. He said the Arroyo administration must always consider the credit-worthiness of the country.
SSS officials attending the hearing were asked about the P12.5 billion ($263,180,057) commitment announced by SSS Chair Romulo Neri.
Under the NEDA plan, the P50 billion ($1,052,720,229) from social security institutions could be tapped for the following projects: LRT Line 1 Extension, MRT 3 Capacity Expansion, LRT Line 2 East Extension to Masinag, and LRT Line 1 South Extension Project.
SSS Senior Vice President for Investments Edgar Solilapsi said the SSS Board has not yet passed a resolution regarding Neri’s proposal.
This angered Rodriguez, “It is premature to announce the package.”
Recto said, “It is a plan, not a package.”
Rodriguez asked Recto which commercial banks have pledged commitment for government infrastructure projects. Recto said all the top banks are interested but admitted that no commitments have been made.
“The package that has been announced has no firm backing,” Rodriguez said.
Casiño said, “It does not stimulate anything. Maybe we should not call this a stimulation package. Maybe we should call it a simulation package.”
Asked about the additional benefits for SSS members that are included in the package, SSS Assistant Vice President Rizaldo Capulong said, “The SSS has not committed to any additional benefits.”
Capulong said they just received instructions a day before the hearing to consider the provision of additional benefits.
Safeguards vs corruption?
Casiño asked Recto what safeguards have been instituted against corruption. “We don’t want another NBN-ZTE deal.”
The $329 million National Broadband Network (NBN) deal with Chinese firm ZTE was cancelled after generating controversies.
Recto replied, “There are better ways of doing it. We are going through that process.”
Gabriela Representative Liza Maza sought for a review of projects. “Some infrastructure projects, after evaluation, were found not to be needs-based but supplier-driven.”
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