Gov’t urged to restore TESDA’s scholarship fund for workers displaced by pandemic

Robie de Guzman   •   June 19, 2020   •   983

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Joel Villanueva on Friday called on the national government to restore the funding of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) scholarship programs to help displaced workers become more employable despite the economic fallout caused by the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

In a statement, Villanueva said the agency’s capacity to provide training for displaced workers and overseas Filipino workers (OFW) was “severely hampered” when part of its budget was realigned for the government’s COVID-19 response.

The senator said about P2.3 billion of TESDA’s budget under the 2020 General Appropriations Act was realigned for COVID-19 fight under the Bayanihan Law.

“Mas mabilis at madali po sana ang pagbangon ng ating mga manggagawang nawalan ng trabaho kung may kakayahan ang TESDA na magbigay ng training para sa mga in-demand na trabaho,” Villanueva said.

“Sa panahon natin ngayon mas kailangan ang tech-voc upang i-ahon ang ating mga manggagawa sa kanilang sitwasyon,” he added.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) earlier estimated that around five million Filpino workers will be displaced by the pandemic by the end of the year.

Villanueva, who chairs the Senate committee on labor, employment, and human resources development, stressed there is a need to restore TESDA’s scholarship fund to help OFWs who have lost their jobs, as well as online sellers trying to make a living amid the pandemic.

“Isa po ang tech-voc training sa mga mabisang sandata ng gobyerno laban sa problema sa kawalan ng trabaho,” Villanueva, who previously served as TESDA secretary, said.

He also appealed to the finance and budget departments to allocate more funding to help TESDA technology institutes (TTI) to purchase the appropriate equipment and software to be able to adequately and effectively deliver blended learning in light of the new normal.

TESDA likewise needs to build up the capacity of its trainers by training them to use learning management systems, and purchasing the necessary tools such as laptops, the senator added.

“The shift to blended learning delivery entails a lot of cost, but rather than seeing it as an expense, our government should look at it as an investment for our workers,” Villanueva said.

“After all, it is our workers who will jumpstart and sustain our economic recovery,” he added.

Philippine GDP declines by 4.2% in first quarter of 2021 – PSA

Robie de Guzman   •   May 11, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine economy shrank by more than expected in the first quarter of the year, according to government data released on Tuesday, as prolonged community quarantines due to the pandemic hamper reopening efforts.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported that the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) fell -4.2 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier.

This is the fifth consecutive quarter that the country has posted negative GDP growth due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The PSA said the main contributors to the decline were Construction (-24.2 percent), other Services, (-38.0 percent); and Real Estate and Ownership of Dwellings (-13.2 percent).

Among the major economic sectors, Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing (AFF) declined by -1.2 percent in the first quarter of 2021. Likewise, Services and Industry contracted by -4.4 percent and -4.7 percent, respectively during the period, the PSA noted.

“On the demand side, Household Final Consumption Expenditure (HFCE) declined by -4.8 percent, along with the following items: Gross Capital Formation (GCF), -18.3 percent; Exports, -9.0 percent; and Imports, -8.3 percent,” the agency said.

The net primary income (NPI) from the rest of the world continued to decline by -75.8 percent, bringing the Gross National Income (GNI) to drop by -10.9 percent during the period, it added.

On the other hand, the PSA said that government final consumption expenditure (GFCE) grew by 16.1 percent in the first quarter of 2021.

Contributors to growth were led by financial and insurance activities (5.2 percent), public administration and defense, compulsory social activities (7.5 percent), and human health and social work activities (11.7 percent).

Other industries that managed to grow during the period were information and communication, 6.3 percent; manufacturing, 0.5 percent; and electricity, steam, water, and waste management, 1.9 percent, the PSA said.

The National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) said the aversion to risk for most of 2020 has placed the country in a long period of quarantine, and that this came at a huge cost to the economy and the people.

It, however, observed some improvements as the rate of contraction has slowed, and that the country has time to catch up with on its growth target of 6.5 to 7.5 percent despite the pandemic-induced quarantine restrictions.

PH may receive 2.3 million Pfizer COVID-19 vax shots from COVAX in June – Galvez

Robie de Guzman   •   April 29, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government is expecting to receive in June around 2.3 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines manufactured by US-based Pfizer-BioNTech, National Task Force against COVID-19 chief implementer and vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said Thursday.

In a Palace briefing, Galvez said a total of 2,355,210 Pfizer vaccine shots from World Health Organization (WHO)-led COVAX facility will be delivered “not later than June” as stated in a letter sent to the country by the vaccine-sharing facility.

Galvez also disclosed that Pfizer and the Philippine government are finalizing the agreement on legal immunity and compensation in case of adverse effects from the vaccine use.

“Napaka-cordial, napaka-bait nga po ng Pfizer… Kahit mayroon tayong tinatawag na challenges, legal challenges, talagang hindi nila binago yung kanilang tinatawag na offer sa atin,” he said.

Galvez also expressed hope that the bulk of vaccine doses procured by the government will arrive in the country by the third quarter.

“Hopefully, magkakaroon po tayo ng sunud-sunod na development at mga deliveries this coming July and August,” he said.

Aside from Pfizer shots, Galvez said that starting in June, the country may also receive 194,000 doses from Moderna; 4.5 million from Sinovac; 2 million from Gamaleya Research Institute; and 1.3 million from AstraZeneca

In July, the Philippines may receive 13.5 million vaccine doses, including those from Novavax and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen.

Up to 40 million vaccine doses may also be delivered by August and September.

Once the bulk of vaccine supply arrives, Galvez said the government will start the vaccination of individuals belonging in the A4 and A5 priority sectors by June, and the general population by August or September.

PH gov’t looking for ways to get excess COVID-19 vaccines – Galvez

Robie de Guzman   •   April 29, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government is negotiating with other countries to secure their excess COVID-19 vaccine doses amid tight global supply, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said.

In his report to President Rodrigo Duterte during a televised briefing late Wednesday, Galvez said they have been coordinating with Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Romualdez in finding ways to secure AstraZeneca vaccine doses from the US.

He also disclosed that Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has reached out to other countries to gain access to their excess vaccine supply.

“Sumulat na nga si Secretary Duque through diplomatic channel na yung hindi nagagamit na AstraZeneca. Pati sa Israel ay sumulat na rin kami ng letter of intent na makakuha ng access para po yung mga excess po ng mga countries na ito ay magkaroon din po tayo,” he told the president.

“Talagang halos umaga, gabi nagne-negotiate po tayo. Kahit Sabado, Linggo po para makakuha lang tayo ng talagang steady and secured supply this coming May and June,” he added.

Galvez said the country is having difficulty in securing stable vaccine supply due to “acute shortage of global supply” but he assured that concerned agencies are  addressing this issue.

“Sa ngayon lang talaga Mr. President, hirap pa po talaga tayo sa ating volume sa first quarter at second quarter. Talagang gipit na gipit tayo,” he said.

Galvez reported that the Philippines is expecting to receive additional 500,000 doses of Sinovac COVID-19 vaccines on Thursday, and one million more by May 7.

He also expressed hope that the country will receive additional vaccine doses from World Health Organization (WHO)-led COVAX Facility by next month.

“Baka yung COVAX din po ay magkakaroon na tayo ng deliveries. Nakita po natin talaga na yung ating COVAX ay nagkaroon po ng delay because of the acute shortage of global supply,” he said.

“Most likely baka makakuha tayo ng 2,355,210 na COVAX Pfizer before the end of June,” he added. “Hopefully magkaroon tayo ng early deliveries dito sa May and also AstraZeneca baka magkaroon din ng COVAX delivery.”

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