Zamora: Aquino fails to address rising unemployment

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Monday, August 4, 2014

HOUSE Minority Floor Leader Ronaldo Zamora urged Monday President Benigno Aquino III to come up with various solutions for the rising unemployment rate that the Chief Executive failed to address during his fifth State of the Nation Address (Sona) before Congress last week.

"Unemployment using the latest NSO data is 7.5 percent with underemployment at 19.5 percent and this consistent with Social Weather Stations finding of 20.5 percent unemployment numbering more than 12 million workers," Zamora said in Kontra-Sona speech before the House of Representatives.

(Video by John Carlo Cahinhinan/Sunnex)

The unemployment rate was the highest in three years, the lawmaker from San Juan said, quoting a National Statistics Office (NSO) report last April.

He said the 7.5 percent represents 3.09 million jobless Filipinos as of April, up from the 2.89 million unemployed in January.

He noted that the April report is higher by 0.6 percentage points than the 6.9 percent rate recorded in same period in 2012.

To address this unemployment, Zamora said that the government should focus on the manufacturing industry.

"We need to generate more employment especially in manufacturing even we hope to generate more employment through greater [foreign direct] investment," said Zamora.

The former executive secretary of then President Joseph Estrada said the country has the lowest ranking in the Asean region in terms of foreign direct investment.

"We have the lowest foreign direct investment in the Asean this is an indicator of our country's low desirability as a direct investment destination, high power cost, poor infrastructure and inconsistent government policy regarding mining and non-agriculture industries must be blamed for this," the lawmaker said.

The minority leader also said that poverty remain at the high level of 19.7 percent a minuscule compared to the 21 percent reported by the National Statistical Coordination Board in 2006.

"In short in eight years we have reduced poverty by only a little more than one percent," he said.

Zamora also urged President Aquino to prepare for the 2015 Asean integration.

"Graver things are facing us, we need to prepare for Asean integration next year, which will bring tariff of almost all goods traded within Asean to zero. This will be a challenge to all industries to main competitive," he said.

"We have to shake up our farms, we have to shake up our farmers, we have to shake up our Department of Agriculture," he said.

Zamora also called for a total overhaul of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) as the country has posted an "embarrassing" one percent growth in the agriculture sector for the last four years of the Aquino administration.

He noted that Aquino had failed to present a roadmap on where the country is leading in the next two years of his administration.

At the same time, Zamora also called for the scrapping of the P64-billion Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program, saying the program has never fulfilled its mandate to help the poor.

The government's CCT program provides P1,400 monthly cash assistance to each family considered as poorest of the poor.

"We must put an end, decisively, to the CCT program. It provides temporary relief for millions of families, but it does not provide them what they really need: real jobs… paying and self-sustaining jobs that will enable them to have a decent future," Zamora said. "[We need] Jobs, not doles. [We need] Jobs, not handoff," he added.

Meanwhile, House Senior Deputy Minority Floor Leader Neri Colmenares said the Aquino administration's much-hailed Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth of 7.2 percent in 2013, reported as one of the fastest in Asia and emerging markets worldwide, "is shallow, artificial and unsustainable".

He noted that the real estate and construction boom, which are the biggest contributors to growth, has small percentage of employment, are weakly integrated to the rest of the economy, and have a limited multiplier effect as these are heavily concentrated in the National Capital Region, Central Luzon and Calabarzon regions.

"The real estate and construction boom and the GDP growth is fueled and driven by growing debt, speculative foreign capital and overseas remittances," Colmenares said. (Sunnex)

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