‘Labor-intensive infra projects to create jobs’

Further reopening the economy and spending more on infrastructure projects would help generate more jobs and incomes, a former Cabinet official said on Tuesday.

During a Management Association of the Philippines webinar, Rogelio Singson, president and chief executive officer of Meralco Powergen Corp., said opening up the economy more would put more money into the pockets of people and allow them to have better access to food and other basic necessities.

He also said more should be spent on labor-intensive infrastructure projects in the countryside, as these would “generate more employment and money [in] rural areas,” provided that state funds “are spent on the right projects at the right costs and right quality.”

“Big-ticket items become big employment generators only during construction, but that will be after several years of engineering and design works,” added Singson, who was Public Works secretary during the administration of Benigno Aquino 3rd.

This would also support the government’s Balik Probinsya program and help decongest Metro Manila, which he said was “already beyond its carrying capacity.”

His remarks come after the Philippine Statistics Authority announced that results of its latest Labor Force Survey showed that an additional 200,000 Filipinos were unemployed in January.

This brought the number of jobless Filipinos to 4 million, or 8.7 percent, from 3.8 million in October and 2.4 million, or 5.3 percent, a year earlier.

The results also showed that unemployment outside the National Capital Region also rose to 8.7 percent in the first month of the year from 8.2 percent in October.

Singson hopes that as the government develops its National Employment Recovery Strategy, “it considers more labor-intensive projects,” as these would “really provide more employment.”

“Big-ticket BBB projects should still be pursued, but the need for employment is now rather than later,” he said, using the acronym of the government’s Build, Build, Build infrastructure program.

Singson also said the private sector could also support the Pilipinas Kontra Gutom (PKG) program, a multisectoral, antihunger movement led by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Zero Hunger.

According to Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, who heads the task force and also spoke at the webinar, the program aims to raise farmers’ incomes by as much as 20 percent and increase their productivity by expanding value-chain projects.

It also targets to have no undernourished Filipino children by 2030 by promoting breastfeeding and providing nutritious meals for Filipino households.

“I know the DSWD and NEDA has the list of the poorest municipalities and communities across the country,” Singson said, referring to the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the National Economic and Development Authority.

“If this can be shared with the private sector, [we can] better target the communities that need help most to support and together with the government’s program, so that these communities can really have better access to food,” he added.