Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz yesterday assured  agriculture sector workers of DOLE’s assistance as El Niño threatens the farming industry in the country.

 

Secretary Baldoz made the DOLE’s assurance of assistance after the DOST-PAGASA reported that a “mature strong El Niño is now present in the tropical Pacific Ocean, which is likely to strengthen further before the end of 2015, and may last until May 2016.”

 

According to PAGASA, this event will potentially be among the four strongest since 1950, and is expected to affect 67 provinces that will experience either dry condition, dry spell, or drought.

 

“DOLE’s main intervention is to provide emergency employment to affected workers.  We have a budget of P649.81-M for this intervention,” Baldoz said, adding that the amount will be dispensed in the remainder of 2015 and in the 1st quarter of 2016.

She said P316.86-M of the total budget is readied for allocation in the 4th quarter of 2015, while another P332.95-M is available for disbursement in the 1st quarter of 2016.

“With this emergency employment budget, we expect to assist 69,804 farmers across the regions,” the DOLE Secretary added.

Among the priority beneficiaries of the DOLE’s emergency employment program are  workers in the informal sector, such as farm laborers, and workers in the formal sector, comprised of agricultural and agri-business workers, specifically plantation workers; hired workers in farms, workers in agri-business whose inputs are primarily agricultural products; and farm workers not involved in rice production.

Baldoz said the nature of the DOLE’s assistance is temporary wage employment, and the beneficiaries, aside from receiving the prevailing minimum wage in their respective areas, will be provided with group accident insurance, appropriate personal protective equipment (PPEs), and orientation on safety and health prior to engagement to work. Possible work for emergency employment includes clearing activities, and repairs of infrastructure and irrigation projects.

The DOLE convened early in September its concerned central office agencies, together with the representatives of PAGASA and the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), to draw up interventions that will address the needs of the affected workers.

Baldoz, citing a report from DOLE’s Bureau of Workers with Special Concerns (BWSC) Director Ahmma Charisma L. Satumba, added that the DOLE is pursuing its partnership with the NIA which will identify the affected farm workers who will receive the package of services from the DOLE. The BWSC has drafted a Memorandum of Agreement for this undertaking, subject for review by the National Irrigation Administration (NIA).

“We have discussed with the NIA about possible complementation of DOLE’s emergency employment program with that of NIA’s farm production projects,” Baldoz said.

Other interventions that the DOLE may offer include the provision of livelihood assistance, skills training from TESDA, and employment facilitation services.

“Those who wish to avail of intermediate to long-term source of income may access the livelihood component of the DOLE Integrated Livelihood and Emergency Employment Program or Kabuhayan Program according to their preferences/interests.  Moreover,  those who wish to build or enhance their capacities, either to prepare themselves as they get back to farm work, or venture in other livelihood undertakings, may avail of the TESDA skills training,” Baldoz said.

The DOLE chief also said employment facilitation would also be conducted to encourage the displaced workers to participate in job fairs, and thus fast track the meeting of job seekers and employers.

 

As a response to the looming El Niño, a task force was created by the government, headed by the NEDA, and with the Food Security Council, DOST, DOH, DFA, DSWD, DOLE, and DILG, plus other concerned agencies.

 

A Roadmap to Address the Impact of El Niño (RAIN) aims to respond to the needs on food, energy, health, and safety securities.  Under the food security, responsible agencies should address the impact of reduced food production, increased food prices, and reduced farm income.

 

The DOLE falls under the Food Security cluster, and is tasked to provide emergency employment to the affected workers.

 

END/GSR

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