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Flawed policies blamed for lack of skilled labor

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Presidential spokesperson and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo. INQUIRER PHOTO/JOAN BONDOC

Malacañang on Friday said the government was doing its best to address the lack of skilled workers which had affected the implementation of its  flagship “Build, build, build” program.

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo made the statement after President Duterte blamed the delays in the ambitious infrastructure program on the lack of skilled workers in the country.

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In a press briefing, Panelo said the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda), through its director-general Isidro Lapeña, was on top of the situation.

“That’s why the President told the Tesda, you should do something so we will have a deep bench of carpenters, electricians. Because many of them are leaving to work in other countries,” he said.

On Thursday, Mr. Duterte said the “Build, build, build” program had been affected by the lack of skilled workers in the country, as most of them had gone to the Middle East in search for greener pastures.

Flawed gov’t programs

The Duterte administration’s ambitious infrastructure program seeks to spend $158 billion for the construction of infrastructure projects to boost economic growth.

It is partially funded by revenues from the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion law.

In his speech on Thursday night, the President urged Filipinos to help fill the gap by learning technical or vocational skills at Tesda.

But according to two party-list lawmakers, flawed government policies and programs have led to delays in its “Build, build, build” infrastructure program and not the shortage of skilled workers.

Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao said the country had adequate labor pool for the construction sector but was hounded by contractualization of labor, discouraging the increase of number of workers with developed skills and mastery.

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“Construction workers need to earn for their family after they finished a project-based work or a job order; thus, those who already developed their skills either found other irregular jobs, went abroad or remained unemployed, ultimately leading to the recomposition of the supposedly regular industrial army,” he said.

Jobs for Chinese workers

Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano also dismissed claims of lack of skilled workers, as he accused the government of setting the stage to export laborers while creating local jobs and import Chinese workers.

“Every day, thousands of Filipino workers leave their families to test their luck overseas, just so they can sustain their needs. We are exporting our skilled (overseas Filipino workers) only to import Chinese laborers,” he said.

Alejano urged the government to convince the millions of skilled workers to come home, by disclosing to them that better jobs were available to them here.

A labor group, for its part, blamed the low pay and meager benefits given to construction workers for the shortage of workers for the “Build, build, build” program.

“Due to meager salary, poor benefits, unsafe and unhealthy working conditions, and the low regard for them, workers prefer to work abroad after a few months of training and actual field experience here because they are dignified there,” Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) president Raymond Mendoza said.

Despite their hard labor, construction workers, especially those in the National Capital Region, often just receive the minimum wage of P532.

To make matters worse, TUCP claimed that some workers are even forced to purchase their own safety equipment.

Apart from the low pay, Mendoza said workers also had a hard time getting themselves certified for their line of work.

Vast pool

Based on TUCP’s estimate, of the 3 million construction workers nationwide, only around a million are certified.

“We have a vast pool of highly, multiskilled and fine craftsmen but because of the lack of training facilities and poor access to certification programs, we do not tap them to become potentials for the country’s ‘Build, build, build’ programs,” he said.

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TAGS: build, Chinese, duterte, Malacañang, Panelo, program, skilled workers, Tesda, work
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