Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Subic defies downturn, still on a hiring mode

SUBIC Bay Freeport appeared to be bucking the nationwide trend toward job losses as officials yesterday revealed investment commitments for the construction of plants, resorts and residential complexes this year.

US-based consumer goods company SC Johnson & Sons was reported to be putting up a facility in Metro Manila to service the financial and accounting requirements of its global operations. It would hire 200 workers to start.

Yesterday, Labor Secretary Marianito Roque said hundreds of Filipinos were losing their jobs daily as the global economy slowed down.

Some 15,600 workers were laid off between Dec. 1 and Jan. 19, he told a radio interview.

“Just for today, it was reported to us that 458 people nationwide could lose their jobs,” Roque said.

He said most of the job cuts were in the electronics sector, which employs 480,000 people and accounts for nearly 70 percent of Philippine exports.

Data showed that Subic’s workforce grew 18 percent last year to 87,502. Four of 10 of those workers, or 36,203, were in the services sector.

Workers in the shipbuilding and marine-related services also grew in the last two years, accounting for 35 percent of the workforce.

A total of 14,545 or 17 percent were in manufacturing, 5,480 or 6 percent were in construction, while 546 or less than 1 percent were employed as domestics or caretakers.

Olongapo continued to be the biggest supplier of workers, accounting for 37 percent of the Subic workforce in 2008. Bataan (13 percent), Zambales (22 percent), Pampanga (3 percent), Metro Manila (5 percent) and Tarlac (3 percent) made up the balance.

Freeport administrator Armand Arreza said 185 new projects approved last year brought investment commitments of $249 million and 6,260 new jobs.

But Arreza acknowledged that the inflow of investments slowed down in 2008.

Despite the slowdown, Subic continued to attract some big-ticket projects and remained one of the biggest employers in Central Luzon, Arreza added.

Government data showed that Central Luzon’s total labor force increased 2.4 percent last year, from 3.4 million in 2007 to 3.5 million as of October 2008. Its unemployment rate declined to 8.1 percent from 8.6 percent in the same period.

The Board of Investments yesterday said SC Johnson & Son Inc. had already hired 50 people for its finance and accounting facility, which would most likely be in Makati.

“Investment leads are coming in from the BPO [business process outsourcing] sector,” said Celeste Ilagan, executive director of the board.

Still, an official of the Business Processing Association of the Philippines yeserday said the industry was scaling down its growth forecast for jobs this year, given the high base from last year.

The industry employed close to 400,000 at the end of 2008. It has set a target of 920,000 more jobs this year. Manila Standard today By Elaine R. Alanguilan With AFP

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