GMA’s pronouncement doubtful

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    US car manufacturer Ford was reported to have lost $5.9 billion recently. It would also lay-off 1,400 employees this year, according to international news. Kodak, also based in US, is reportedly losing billions in sales and would possible cut-down human resource by 4,000 around the globe. Based on CNN and BBC reports, US had already lost 588,000 jobs since the economic recession hit them late last year.

    In the country, economists are projecting almost the same figure of 500,000 to be laid-off this year as an effect of the global economic crisis. Recently, no less than Labor Secretary Mariano Roque admitted that there were some 15,000 job losses reported this year while more and more companies mostly run by foreigners are either cutting operational expenses or stop operations.

    If you are regularly reading Punto Gitnang Luzon, you probably noticed the successive reports on lay-offs all over the region. The Bataan-based Japanese firm Mitsumi Philippines recently announced that it dismissed 134 contractual workers and compressed work days from six to five a week to 3,314 employees. The company said this is due to downtrend in product orders as a result of global crisis. Meanwhile, International Wiring System (IWS) likewise compressed workdays to 10 days a month to cut expenses.

    Noble Metals, another Bataan-based firm, has served notice of two-month temporary shutdown effective February 20, 2009. At least 32 workers will be affected. Mitsumi and Noble are two of the 42 multi-national firms operating at the Bataan Economic Zone in Mariveles. In Bulacan, DOLE reported that 400 employees were laid-off in several firms in the province including Republic Cement, Four Seasons Apparel, Indo-Phil Textile.  Job rotations have also become a trend as part of cost-cutting. Firms now doing rotations are Huey Commercial Inc. Sun King Electronics and Manila Luggage.

    In Clark, some 1,000 workers at the Fontana Leisure Estate are still waiting to be paid for their services for the month of December 2008 and January this year.

    But despite these reported lay-offs and trends in labor, President Arroyo bravely pronounced that the country is “out of sphere of the two-thirds of the world now into recession.” She added that we should be proud even because our country recorded a six percent growth in GNP (gross national product) and 4.6 percent growth in GDP (gross domestic product) in 2008. During the Lakas-CMD party executive committee caucus in Mabalacat, Pampanga last January 29, the President added that merging Lakas-CMD and Kampi “will keep us on road to First World in 20 years.”

    The President is either fooled by paper reports and statistics on GNP and GDP. But such growth is not visible to the common people. Everyday, hundreds of Filipinos lose their jobs and this means more Filipinos losing adequate meals, shelter and education.

    To hear the President say that we are not affected by the global economic recession is too good to be true. Foreign-funded firms in the country are already starting to cut production costs. Texas Instrument (TI) in Baguio City has reportedly laid-off workers and likewise decreased operations. We just hope that this would not affect the ongoing construction of TI inside Clark Freeport Zone.

    What the people need to hear from President Arroyo are the contingency plans being prepared by the national government in the face of the growing unemployment in the country. It is very dangerous to make people believe that we are “out of the recession sphere,” making others more complacent amid the current crisis.

    Instead of announcing plans for the Lakas and Kampi merger, the national leadership should instead announce what specific steps are being done to lessen the impact of these massive lay-offs. The local government units, being the front-liners, will definitely need all the support when their constituents start demanding for livelihood and jobs.

    It is not yet time to flaunt political realignments in preparation for the 2010 elections. Too bad that we had enough people power, we are at a lost on what kind of leader we really want. When GMA won the last presidential elections, the Makati Business Club thought an economist like President Arroyo would help propel the country’s economy. But what we got was a leadership full of scams, corruption charges, high rate of unemployment, an OFW-driven economy and dirty political tactics.

    Come to think of it, the country could have been better off with ousted President Estrada who waged an all-out war against the Abu Sayyaf rebels, started massive housing project for the poor and launched the dairy program in Central Luzon.

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