Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Subic unfurls safety net for displaced workers

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—As the national government cobbles a stimulus program to mitigate the effects of the global economic crisis, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) has come up with a rescue plan for workers displaced by the global recession.

SBMA Chairman Feliciano Salonga said in a statement the agency is creating a “reintegration” program to give workers safety nets as in a network, access to training and livelihood programs.

More than 87,500 workers were employed in the Subic Bay Freeport as of December 2008, according to the SBMA.

The SBMA did not give a number on how many workers have so far been displaced, but industry estimates place the figures at 14,500, or half of the workers employed by the manufacturing sector.

Salonga said the rescue plan was hatched last year as the local economy started to feel the pinch of the global recession that was sparked by the credit crunch in the US.

The SBMA started a skills-set inventory of workers who were displaced last month, and learned that makers of electronics located here expected a market slump this year, according to Salonga.

The electronics-manufacturing sector is a labor-intensive industry.

Companies most affected by the slump are suppliers of electric components to major global brands like Sony, Toshiba, Panasonic, IBM, Dell, Intel and Samsung.

These major players intend to cut costs and manpower as part of their strategy to tide the recession, according to a study by the SBMA.

To soften the impact of layoffs and cost-cutting approach to doing business, Salonga said the SBMA re-integration program would give displaced workers “lifesaver opportunities” in the agro-industry, small-scale enterprise and hospitality industry. Training will include short technical courses.

“We’re doing this to make sure the free port’s human resources are not frozen while waiting for markets to bounce back,” Salonga explained.

“Filipinos are born survivors, but they still need assistance. And the SBMA will not hesitate to provide opportunities for our people, who have helped make Subic what it is today,” he added.

The skills inventory of workers will serve as basis for developing training programs the SBMA will hold with partners, like the Technology Research Center, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Technical Skills and Development Authority and the Philippine Center for Entrepreneurship, which has successfully trained entrepreneurs under its Go Negosyo program.

To jump-start the reintegration program, the SBMA is raising P1 million as seed fund and put in place an oversight committee and a “one-stop action center” at the Subic Bay Arts Center.

Salonga said the agro-industry could absorb most of the workers who could be displaced in the manufacturing sector.

“We will focus on existing job markets, but we will also try to create new markets after studies show that they are feasible,” he said.

These potential markets are in food processing, handicraft and novelty items, as well as spa services, he added.

Salonga also expressed hope that the local economy will survive the recession and bounce back soon. Written by Henry Empeño / Business mirror Correspondent

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