Despite rising unemployment, Malacanang said Tuesday the government is not yet considering new cash assistance for jobless Filipinos.
Palace spokesman Harry Roque said the options at the moment do not include aid distribution.
Instead, he said, the government will further reopen the economy by expanding the age groups allowed to leave their homes, increasing the capacity of public transport, and implementing a recovery package.
He added that once the vaccination program gets underway, the President said he will open the economy. The reopening of the economy so that jobs can increase.
The number of jobless Filipino adults stood at 4 million or 8.7 percent of the labor force in January, the Philippine Statistics Authority reported Tuesday.
But Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda said the spike in unemployment reported in the January Labor Force Survey proves that the country has not started recovery from the downturn caused by COVID-19 lockdowns.
“I attribute the decline in unemployment partly to the failure of credit stimulus. That has three causes. First, banks continued to be risk-averse, choosing to put its money in trading operations over lending. Second, the Executive Branch did not release the Bayanihan 2 equity infusion for government financial institutions in a timely fashion. Third, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) released stricter guidelines on lending, despite its own expansionary monetary policy,” Salceda said.
Marikina Rep. Stella Luz Quimbo renewed her call for the enactment of Bayanihan 3 or the proposed P42 -billion stimulus package to help the economy recover from COVID-19– which she principally authored with Speaker Lord Allan Velasco.
Quimbo said the current employment situation calls for a well-targeted response from Congress.
"With barely a month before the recess, we must swiftly pass Bayanihan 3 ito cushion the blow of the pandemic on Filipinos, especially the working class."
She said the Bayanihan 3 provides P52 billion to help subsidize wages of workers in small businesses, in addition to another P30 billion for assistance to the unemployed, and P108 billion assistance to every Filipino.
Medium and small-scale business would also receive assistance to help them navigate the new business environment and to preserve jobs, she said.
The unemployment rate was higher than the 5.3 percent jobless rate in the same month last year, with about 2.39 million people out of work.
For 2020, the average jobless rate was 10.4 percent, or 4.5 million adult Filipinos, the highest since 2005.
The underemployment rate for January 2021 was pegged at 16 percent, the PSA said.
Slammed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the quarantine restrictions that throttled economic activity, the Philippines suffered its worst economic recession since World War II.
Quimbo, a member of the minority bloc, also batted for the passage of her bill institutionalizing a National Unemployment Insurance Program.
The bill would establish a dedicated program for unemployment insurance to provide sufficient social protection to workers.
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Tuesday said it is optimistic that employment will continue to improve in the coming months with the availability of vaccines against COVID-19.
“We expect a better and more improved employment performance in the coming months with the vaccine being made available and more Filipinos under the priority categories getting inoculated,” Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said in a statement.
At the same time, he added that the positive numbers in the country’s labor force show that companies and employees are gaining confidence with the slowly reopening of the economy.
Despite the grim unemployment figures, Bello described the results of the Labor Force Survey as “highly encouraging.”