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Jobs, jobs, jobs

By Senator Manny Villar

The Duterte administration is determined to usher in what it calls the “golden age of infrastructure” in the Philippines. It has said that it is committed to pour in R8 – R9 trillion for infrastructure projects spread over six years.

This is something that we needed decades ago. But we are thankful that the present administration has used its political will to make sure that infrastructure is given the attention it deserves.

The massive spending will primarily address our backlog in terms of building the necessary infrastructure – roads, rails, bridges – to address the gridlock in Metro Manila and other urban areas as well as sustain our phenomenal economic growth.

But another welcome result from this unprecedented infrastructure push is the increase in the demand for labor. The projects require massive manpower and the “build, build, build” initiative of President Duterte translates to “jobs, jobs, jobs” for our people.

According to the estimates of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the government’s program will likely create two million more construction jobs. What this also means is that the demand for construction will put constraints on the supply for jobs. It seems that there is a backlog in terms of skilled workers.

It is a concern. But it is a welcome problem. All we need to do is make sure our workers possess the necessary skills to meet the demands of the boom in construction brought about by the numerous infrastructure project government is rolling out.

In my business alone, we are in need of around 18,000 jobs. This need is brought about by our increasing confidence in the economic fundamentals of the country and the solid governance efforts of the current administration.

And we are not alone. All property builders are in expansion mode. Even the other sectors are bullish. This means more infrastructure. And this is just from the private sector. Imagine the employment demands of the infra projects of government.

But we need to get our acts together in terms of training for our workers. TESDA (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority) needs to align its programs to the development strategy of government and ensure that there are training programs available for workers.

This is also good for our overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). In general, it is hoped that the jobs we generate through infrastructure would be enough so our kababayans would no longer see the need to leave their family and the country in order to provide for their loved ones.

More specifically, we hope that the surge in the demand for jobs can provide a buffer for our returning OFWs. Most recently, many of our OFWs from Kuwait have returned to the country following rampant reports of abuse and maltreatment including the horrific death Joanna Demafelis, allegedly at the hands of her employers.

As our country rethinks our strategy in OFW deployment, we need to be able to provide alternatives to those who are coming home and those who, in the future, might be adversely affected by a prospective deployment ban.

We, in the private sector, are prepared to do our share. Our bullish outlook in the Philippine economy will translate to more investments, more businesses, more constructions and more jobs. We hope it translates to better quality of lives for all Filipino families.

“Build, build, build” is therefore not just about roads and rails. It is about jobs and income. More importantly, it will result in a dramatic boost in our economy in the long-term.

Some people call it “Dutertenomics”, I call it common sense. This country is way behind in infrastructure development so we need to invest in it. This in turns creates jobs and a boost to our already burgeoning economy. And hopefully put a dent on exporting our labor abroad that creates social problems back home.