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PIA Press Release

PGMA unveils measures to assist vulnerable industries, Filipinos in face of global crisis

Manila (10 February) -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo unveiled today 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" this morning 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.

She noted that SSS members had appealed to the government to condone the penalties and surcharges imposed by the SSS on delinquent members.

"In response to this concern raised two weeks ago SSS is already implementing such a program for one year," the President said.

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 including the tapping of in-bound returning workers and domestic retrenched workers to become trainors in these trainings 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.

Additionally, the standardization of the city business registration and permit process would be launched on Feb. 18 by the League of Cities of the Philippines to reduce red tape and the cost of doing business.

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

"We have requested the BSP (Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas) also through the national government's representative in the Monetary Board, Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Favila, to provide liberal terms for rediscounting windows and allow the banks particularly the GFIs some flexibility on regulatory financial ratio compliance," she said.

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.

She also directed TESDA to mainstream and expand training partnerships between government and private companies such as that being done in San Miguel and Max's.

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.

Also present were Vice President Noli de Castro, Labor Secretary Marianito Roque, Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Favila, Environment Secretary Jose Lito Atienza, TESDA Director General Augusto Syjuco, business leaders and Valenzuela 2nd District Representative Magtanggol Gunigundo, chairman of the House Labor Committee.

Unlike many countries, the President said her tax and other economic reforms have paid off with revenue for investments in human and physical infrastructure that made the Philippines weather "the worse of the global crisis thus far."

"Nonetheless, this is a time when government, business and labor must join hands against the global crisis so that it does not become a crisis in the Philippines. In doing this, we must not neglect those who feel the hardships of the global downturn, especially firms under strain and workers facing layoffs," she pointed out.

In order to come up with appropriate responses and interventions, the President said government and industries must share information on employment, number of companies and workers affected, and other related information in order to come up with an accurate and reliable picture of the actual impact of the global financial crisis on employment and business.

In contrast to news of huge number of retrenchments, Labor Secretary Roque said that reports from the business sector indicated that 30,000 jobs have been lost since October last year. (PIA) [top]

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