The government should prioritize setting up an emergency employment program and food terminals in each region to address the problem of joblessness, Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson said Saturday.
Lacson said these are among the interim adjustments that the government must make to cope with the effects of the pandemic on our health and economy – while continuing to focus on controlling Covid and curbing corruption.
“Kung interim, sa emergency employment, government internship. Or sa mga mas mataas ang qualification, pwedeng kausapin ang private sector na tanggapin sa internship program nila. Gamitin na ring opportunity sa pag-harness ng kanilang skills (In the interim, we can have an emergency employment program where graduates and undergraduates undergo internship in government offices. The government can also tap the private sector to take graduates and undergraduates with higher qualifications. This will also give the public and private agencies the opportunities to harness the graduates and undergraduates’ skills),” he said in an interview on DZRH radio.
He said this approach will not only harness the skills of young Filipinos, but use the internship program as an opportunity for skills training while continuously making adjustments in the government’s response to control Covid-19.
“We cannot effectively address joblessness due to the closure of businesses amid the pandemic, if we don’t reopen the economy,” Lacson pointed out.
Meanwhile, Lacson also pushed for the setting up local food terminals in each island group or region, to help farmers and boat operators who lost their livelihood due to the pandemic.
“Ang food terminal natin sa Taguig napakalaki, almost barren ang lupa. Hindi ba pwedeng mag-create sa bawa’t island group may food terminal? Bawa’t region may food terminal (Our food terminal in Taguig is big but its land is almost barren. We can create a food terminal for each island group or region),” he said.
This can be complemented by government providing farmers with inputs such as seeds, fertilizer and irrigation. Lacson was one of the main authors of what is now the Free Irrigation Law – even as he lamented only two-thirds of the three to four million hectares of land in the Philippines has enough irrigation.
But Lacson maintained all these should also go hand in hand with ongoing efforts to control Covid, as well as curb corruption. The government should also avoid overregulation of the private sector while implementing budget reform to prioritize research and development and the use of information and communications technology.
He said that while farmers may need two to three years to feel the benefits of government subsidies, they may not get to feel it at all due to corruption.
“Ang overarching dito, talaga kailangan ayusin ang Covid response natin kasi napakasama. Babalik tayo sa No. 1 problem sa ating bansa which is corruption. Ang binibiling palay nakikinabang ang importers, karamihan di natin kababayan, ito ang pumapatay sa ating magsasaka (The overarching theme is that we must refine our Covid response because it is simply bad. We go back to our No. 1 problem, corruption. We import rice but only importers – most of whom are not Filipinos – benefit at the expense of our farmers),” he said.
Lacson pointed out the problem is not limited to rice importation, with the Philippines having become a nation of imported goods instead of maximizing its food production capabilities through agriculture.
“We are a nation of imported goods. Instead of maximizing our food production through agriculture, warehousing and processing and marketing, we are fixated on importing even food items that our farmers and scientists and researchers are capable of mass producing,” he said.