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Bong Go: help vulnerable sectors, displaced workers, OFWs

July 28, 2020 - Tuesday 4:07 PM by MDM

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In light of President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent State of the Nation Address, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go expressed his support to the administration’s initiatives to boost its efforts in assisting key sectors most affected by the ongoing crisis so they can recover swiftly from the adverse effects of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

“Susuportahan po natin ang adhikain ng Pangulo na bigyang prayoridad ang mga programang makakatulong sa pinaka-nangangailangan. Buhay at interes ng ordinaryong Pilipino, lalo na ‘yung mga nasa pinakamababang sektor ng lipunan, ang ating uunahin,” Go said.  

President Duterte, during his SONA, stressed the need to ramp up government support for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), displaced workers, overseas Filipinos, and other vulnerable sectors so they can cope and quickly recover from the pandemic.

The President particularly asked banks and financial institutions in the country to provide regulatory relief for MSMEs and allow loan payment extension without penalties and charges. Duterte also mentioned the Small Business Corporation's COVID Assistance to Restart Enterprises (CARES) program which offers loans to MSMEs.

“As the President said, we must intensify efforts to help MSMEs by providing responsive government assistance and services, capitalization and business operations support as we adapt to the next normal,” Go emphasized. 

“Sa panahon ngayon, bigyan rin muna natin ng palugit sa mga bayarin ang taumbayan habang tinutulungan rin natin ang mga negosyante at yung mga gusto magnegosyo na magkaroon ng puhunan para makapagsimula muli,” Go commented further. 

Previously, Go appealed for the grant of a subsidy program to provide assistance to MSMEs and their employees, and also called the attention of the national government to provide more support for displaced workers, particularly returning OFWs. 

“Bigyan muna natin ang mga Pilipino, lalo na ang mga low to middle class, ng palugit. Mahihirapan po silang magbayad sa ngayon dahil walang trabaho, walang negosyo. Mahirap kumita sa panahong ito,” he added.

The President, in his SONA, directed the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority to provide sufficient and relevant skills training for those who lost jobs, particularly returning overseas Filipino workers. He also called on the Commission on Higher Education for scholarship programs for qualified dependents of OFWs. Duterte also asked the Land Bank of the Philippines and other government financial institutions to continue providing low interest loans to OFWs.

President Duterte, then, highlighted government efforts in infrastructure investment that aim to create jobs, spur growth, and promote financial inclusiveness for Filipinos. According to him, “infrastructure projects under Build, Build, Build program are not mere springboard for the country's swift recovery, they are also economic benefits to be distributed to all corners of the country.”

Go, for his part, asked the Department of Labor and Employment as well as other concerned agencies to strengthen its livelihood development efforts and job creation and placement initiatives on top of the assistance being given to displaced workers. He mentioned that promoting agri-business and entrepreneurship in the countryside will provide Filipinos new hope of a better future and a better life in the provinces after the pandemic. 

“Sa susunod na mga buwan, dapat lang na mas palakasin ang mga programang naglalayong mabigyan ng kabuhayan ang mga nawalan ng trabaho. Kasama na dyan ang skills training, promotion of agri-businesses, lalo na sa mga probinsya, at pagbigay ng puhunan sa mga gustong magnegosyo,” Go explained. 

“Malaking bagay din po ang commitment ng Pangulo na ipagpatuloy ang infrastructure program ng bansa upang makalikha ito ng marami pang trabaho at ma-sustain ang ating economic growth,” he added.

President Duterte also mentioned in his SONA the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa Program, which Go earlier suggested to the Executive branch.

“I issued AO 18 directing concerned agencies to strengthen the development of special economic zones in areas outside Metro Manila. I also issued EO 114 to institutionalize the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-Asa program,” Duterte said. 

The President also stressed the need for the creation of an executive department that will focus on matters concerning overseas Filipinos. Go, in response, has expressed his gratitude to the President for the support for his Senate Bill No. 202 seeking the creation of the Department of Overseas Filipinos. He reiterated that this measure is needed now more than ever given the impact of the crisis on the lives of millions of OFWs. 

“Importante dito ay may nakatutok sa kanilang pangangailangan. May isang departamento na may klarong mandato para alagaan ang 10% ng population natin na overseas Filipinos. Hirap na hirap na sila, mas pinalala pa ng pandemya,” Go said. 

“Kaya huwag na natin silang mas pahirapan pa. Bigyan natin ng pansin ang kanilang hinaing at padaliin natin ang serbisyong dapat nilang makuha mula sa gobyerno,” he added. 

Go stressed that reintegration efforts for returning overseas Filipinos must be prioritized and he hopes that the creation of a department solely for overseas Filipinos’ concerns will ease the burden and make government service delivery be more responsive to their needs. 

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