• Senator seeks passage of bill creating rural jobs

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    THE unemployment problem in rural areas in the country may soon be addressed if the Senate immediately acts on the Rural Employment Assistance Program bill still pending at the committee level.

    Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, the author of Senate Bill (SB) 947, or “An Act Providing for Rural Employment Assistance Program and Appropriating Funds thereof,” or REAP, is calling on his fellow senators to cross party lines and support the measure.

    Angara’s bill has remained pending at the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development headed by Sen. Nancy Binay since August 2016 and not a single committee hearing has since been conducted.

    SB 947, according to the senator, will provide employment to jobless workers in rural areas that could also help spur economic growth.

    Under Section 3 of SB 947, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), in coordination with local government units, shall establish REAP to create employment, for a minimum of 45 days, or a maximum of 90 days in every calendar year.

    Jobs will be opened for qualified family heads or unmarried single adult members of qualified poor households in rural areas who volunteer to do unskilled manual work.

    As defined in the bill, a “rural area” refers to a barangay (village), which has a population of fewer than 2,500 and which does not have any business establishment with 25 or more employees, or 5 or more establishments with a minimum of 10 employees, or five facilities within a two-kilometer radius from the barangay hall.

    Qualified individuals will be employed in projects that include development, rebuilding and rehabilitation of agri-business livelihood assets destroyed or lost because of natural disasters.

    Jobs involve desilting of irrigation canals; rehabilitation and development of common service facilities such as post-harvest facilities and public markets; development or rehabilitation of physical assets such as farm-to-market roads, slope protection and bridges; and protection of productive assets through mitigation measures such as mangrove planting, rehabilitation and tree planting.

    Angara said the lack of significant economic growth in rural areas may have largely contributed to the continued rise of unemployment rate in the countryside.

    “Many studies have shown that poverty in our country is most severe and widespread in rural areas, where almost 80 percent of the poor population live,” the senator pointed out.

    The Labor Force Survey of the Philippine Statistics Authority showed that as of April 2016, the unemployment rate in the national level was 6.1 percent, equivalent to 2.594 million unemployed persons (of working age), which was higher than 5.8 percent, or 2.469 million in January of the same year.

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