Labor and Employment Secretary Baldoz will visit Zamboanga City tomorrow to deliver a promise: pay the salaries of the beneficiaries of the DOLE’s Special Program for the Employment of Students (SPES) who were hired at the height of the armed conflict that has razed the city.

“There are other DOLE programs that are on-going, and the SPES, which is the government’s inclusive ‘bridging employment’ program that enhances the employability of young student-workers has benefited 825 Zamboangeño student-beneficiaries in Region 9. I will visit them and deliver to them their remaining salaries as SPES student-beneficiaries,” said Baldoz, who has postponed several times her visit to Zamboanga to attend to the pressing problems spawned by the Bohol earthquake and the current rehabilitation problems brought by Typhoon Yolanda.

Baldoz said that at the height of the Zamboanga City crisis last September, DOLE Regional Office No. 9 Director Sisinio Cano braved his way to the Convention Center of the Province of Zamboanga Del Norte to award the check amounting to P1,066,800 for the 525 SPES grantees in Dipolog City. No less than City Mayor Evelyn Uy and PESO manager Flora Altimosa received the check to be paid to the SPES beneficiaries.

The DOLE regional office had delivered another check worth P396,000 for the salaries of 300 SPES grantees under the Provincial Government Office in Zamboanga del Norte. PESO manager received the check on behalf of Provincial Governor Roberto Uy.

“The 825 student-workers in Western Mindanao will receive the full reward for their labor. They have already been paid the 40 percent share of their salaries,” Cano said.

The SPES, a bridging mechanism that enables student-beneficiaries gain skills and workplace experience, was established under Republic Act 7323.

Under the SPES program, students who have no means, but have the ability, to pursue college education, especially those in crisis-stricken area, gets employed for a minimum of 22 days and a maximum of 52 days. They get paid a minimum wage–40 percent of which is in the form of a voucher applicable for the payment of tuition fees and books in any secondary, tertiary, vocational or technical educational institution. The 60 percent is paid for in cash by the employers, who are given incentives in employing SPES beneficiaries.

The law empowers Public Employment Service Offices (PESOs) to deliver employment facilitation services for the program, and local government units to assume greater responsibility in its implementation, particularly in the payment of the wages or salaries of the beneficiaries.

Secretary Baldoz has lauded the regional office for its stronger promotion of the SPES resulting to more deserving students and out-of-school youth to benefit from the program.

“The SPES is an opportunity to enhance the employability of the youth, who will eventually be the next generation of the country’s workforce. More than giving the students gainful experience while earning some cash they can use when they go back to school, the SPES program also helps them to increase their employment opportunities in the future,” Baldoz said.

(with reporting from Iris Tangcalagan, LCO RO9)

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