Press Release
September 13, 2006

Drilon deplores jobless growth even as Malacañang
trumpets alleged huge economic gains

Senate Finance Committee Chairman and former Labor Secretary Sen. Franklin M. Drilon today chided Malacañang for continuing to brag about alleged economic gains of government while at the same time failing to address the unemployment and underemployment problem in the country.

"Notwithstanding all the trumpeted economic gains, we have not improved in the past five years in terms of providing decent employment for our people," said Drilon, who is Liberal Party president.

Drilon made this statement after a Senate briefing last Tuesday of the Development Budget Coordinating Council on the proposed P1.126 trillion national budget for year 2007. The National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) reported a 5.5 percent growth in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and reported that for the first quarter of 2006, unemployment rate is 11.3 percent and underemployment for the same period is 25.4 percent.

While noting that it was too early to make a serious assessment on Malacañang 's proposed 2007 budget, Drilon said most senators would like to look into the specifics of measures such as the improved GDP and its effects on the worsening problem of unemployment and underemployment among Filipinos.

"We don't want to make an assessment at this point," Drilon said. "From the briefing, we can see a respectable GDP growth. However, my impression is that this is what we call a jobless growth," Drilon said.

"Our unemployment problem remains at about 11.4 percent on the average for the past five years. That is about 3.3 million Filipinos unemployed every year. The underemployment is worse. It is about 25 percent, or over eight million Filipinos underemployed, " Drilon explained. "This is over 11 million unemployed and underemployed out of a workforce of 33 million. This is the worst in the Asean region. We have not improved in the past five years."

The former Senate President noted that while of the country's economic managers have been bragging about an improved GDP growth, majority of the Filipinos remained poor and jobless.

"I will ask these questions because I have always suspected that while we have a respectable GDP growth, the benefits have not trickled down to the economic classes C, D, E and the ordinary Juan dela Cruz is asking, 'what does it mean to me? All these good macro economic indicators, what does it mean to me: do I have a job?" Drilon said.

"It appears that our unemployment rate has been maintained over the past five years, notwithstanding all the trumpeted economic gains," he added.

During the Development Budget Coordinating Council briefing, Drilon asked NEDA Director Romulo Neri: "Would you agree with me that notwithstanding all the gains in the economy that we claimed to have made, our unemployment rate has not changed at all?"

But Neri could only reply that government was now putting emphasis on infrastructure investments to generate employment after focusing on stabilizing the fiscal part of the economy for the first few years.

Drilon cited a report by the Asian Development Bank indicating that unemployment in the Philippines remains at a high 11.4 percent on the average for the past five years, which makes it the worst in the Asean region, followed by Indonesia at 9.4 percent. Thailand is the best performing in the region with 2.3 percent.

The Philippines registered an average unemployment rate of 11.4 percent, the highest among the original members of the Asean region for the period 2001 to 2005, notwithstanding the fact that the Philippines has relied heavily and perhaps for far too long on an implicit labor export policy, the report said.

The finance committee started to hold briefings on the proposed 2007 budget Tuesday while waiting for the version officially transmitted by the House of Representatives.

"We hope that they will be able to transmit it to us by about middle of November as was done in the past. So we would have enough time to pass it before the end of the year," Drilon said.

Last Tuesday, Drilon noted that the P8 billion Kalayaan and Kilos Asenso funds, which he claimed to be presidential pork barrel, did not appear in the proposed P1.1-trillion national budget for 2007. "That removes a major source of disagreement between the Senate and Malacañang , as it was in the 2006 budget," said Drilon.

The Senate cut the administration' s proposed P1 trillion budget for 2006 by P64 billion, including the entire P8 billion Kalayaan and Kilos Asenso funds, which led to an impasse with the House and Malacañang . This resulted in a failure to approve the 2006 budget forcing government to use a rolled-over 2005 budget.

When Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. appeared before the Senate Tuesday and appealed for cooperation, Drilon told him it would be easier for the Senate to approve the 2007 budget if it did not contain the P8 billion-allocation that senators insist was President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo' s pork barrel.

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