As the country marks Labor Day today amid the raging COVID-19 pandemic, the government should ensure existing jobs are preserved and new employment is created, former Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said in a statement yesterday.
Belmonte noted that 4.2 million Filipinos are now unemployed nationwide, with 1 million workers losing their jobs in the NCR Plus bubble alone.
“It is therefore imperative to further open up the economy to address the growing hunger among our people. But this has to go hand-in-hand with keeping our people healthy and defeating the surge in COVID infections,” he said.
Belmonte backed the policy statement of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases that priority should now be given to the mass vaccination of all private and public sector frontline employees and workers.
“While we welcome the expansion by the IATF of the A1 vaccination priority listing to now include more workers, including our OFWs and seafarers, we believe that prioritizing all workers for mass vaccination is the formula to speed up efforts to defeat the current surge and simultaneously revive the economy,” he said.
“For far too long, the health versus economy priorities were treated as an 'either' and 'or' trade-off. Other countries have shown that you can knock down two birds with one stone, that there need not be a trade-off. The IATF needs to consider this approach if we are to strike the right balance between keeping infection levels manageable while simultaneously reviving the economy.”
“The logic is simple: It is the worker in the office, factory, mall, or plantation and in all of the thousands of micro, small and medium enterprises, who are truly the most exposed daily to possible COVID infection. And yet all these workers are the ones we rely on to run the economy, man the machines, and physically manufacture vital goods and provide needed services,” Belmonte added.
DOH data will show that the majority of those infected with COVID are of working age, he said.
“Either they pick up the virus in the workplace, their homes or, in transit, and from there the infections multiply. We therefore call on the IATF to revisit their priority vaccination list and immediately hasten the vaccination of all workers now, and not just the expanded A1 priority list,” he said.
“It is crystal-clear that our survival as a nation will now hinge on simultaneously keeping the COVID infection under control and opening up the economy. Mass vaccination of all workers and employees now is the key policy that the IATF must prioritize and dedicate resources to,” Belmonte added.