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VILLANUEVA: COVID VAXXING NOW AN EMPLOYMENT ISSUE

Senator Joel Villanueva called for the vaccination of all workers either by their employers or the government as the COVID-19 pandemic changed the dynamics of employment altogether.

“We should focus not only on jobs, but also on jabs,” Villanueva said. “But first, we should face our problems and deal with them squarely.”

The veteran legislator spoke at the 2021 Congress of the Public Employment Service Office (PESO), an employment service facility established in all Local Government Units (LGUs) in coordination with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

PESO offices at local government units are in charge of collating data on job openings, matching jobseekers with these and conducting seminars or counseling sessions for individuals in search of jobs.

Latest employment data in June showed that the unemployment rate reached 7.7 percent or 3.76 million Filipinos eligible to work or those 15 years or older.

On the other hand, underemployment in the same period was up to 14.2 percent from 12.3 percent last May.

“That is equivalent to 6.41 million underemployed Filipinos,” the seasoned lawmaker said, referring to workers who took substantial pay cuts because their work hours had been shortened.

The senator said that as a result of the pandemic, “it seemed there’s an additional pre-employment requirement—the vaccine.”

“It’s not really a requirement but COVID vaccine is slowly becoming an employment issue.”

“It’s not really a requirement but COVID vaccine is slowly becoming an employment issue,” he noted.

As the pandemic and lockdowns continued to kill jobs, Villanueva said he saw signs of hope that should be replicated nationwide.

He cited two examples of a vaccination program designed to bring back jobs and workers which could be done on a more massive scale.

One was the vaccination program for 70,000 workers of San Miguel Corp. (SMC), one of the country’s biggest companies and employers.

Villanueva recalled visiting SMC’s vaccination rollout. SMC hired 300 medical workers to roll out the program.

“Damang-dama ko ang mga empleyado habang pinagmamasdan ko silang nakapila para tumanggap ng bakuna.”

“Damang-dama ko ang mga empleyado habang pinagmamasdan ko silang nakapila para tumanggap ng bakuna,” Villanueva said. “May sinasabi ang bawat kilos at galaw nila. May matatakbuhan ako. Ligtas ako. May laban na ako.”

The second sample that he cited was the vaccination rollout for seafarers by the Magsaysay Maritime Corp. At least 2,000 Filipino seafarers received vaccine jabs last June 17.

“There are seafarers who already boarded ships even without vaccines,” Villanueva said. “Some of them are lucky because their ships or manning agencies have vaccination programs especially for Filipino seafarers working in cruise ships.”

“But many still need to be vaccinated before they can board ships,” he added. “Most of the time, it’s to each his own for them in lining up at LGUs.”

Villanueva stressed that a program for vaccination that would not be a burden to workers can be inspired by a law that he helped pass—the First-Time Jobseekers Assistance Act.

That law, which he is the principal sponsor and author, mandates that people applying for jobs for the first time should not be made to pay for pre-employment documents.

“If pre-employment documents serve as stumbling block to get immediate employment and we waived the fees to provide assistance to first-time jobseekers, PESO should also take an active role in assisting first-time jobseekers to ensure that jabs reach their arms if COVID vaccine jabs get in the way of our people getting dignified jobs,” Villanueva concluded.

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