To make sure the Duterte administration’s flagship projects under the “Build, Build, Build” (BBB) program will not be derailed due to manpower constraints, Public Works Secretary Mark A. Villar said the government is embarking on a massive hiring program—especially for technical people—that will be called “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs” (JJJ).
“We’re still working with the DOF [Department of Finance], we’re working with other agencies, the BBB team, in order to undertake matching with jobs. We are already looking for people. We are recruiting and we are aggressive in recruitment. We will have the ‘Jobs, Jobs, Jobs’ program for matching,” Villar said at the BusinessMirror Coffee Club Forum on Thursday.
Villar revealed that the JJJ will cover Filipino professionals in the country and abroad, and recognized that the government would be competing with private employers—including salary-wise—to get the required number of skilled people to improve the implementing agencies’ absorptive capacity.
“The cost of labor will go up…but many will be coming back from overseas. Before, I was in housing [sector], and our engineers were going abroad. Most of them are still abroad. But, if the salary here would be competitive, even if not as high, they will come back. That will become the dynamic,” he added.
Anna Mae Y. Lamentillo, chairman of the BBB program, said the JJJ will be officially launched in May.
The program will be undertaken by the DPWH with the DOF and other key agencies.
Villar noted the JJJ program is important, as it would address recruitment problems like where the Filipinos abroad, especially the engineers, would apply should they decide to participate in the BBB.
Being able to attract returning OFWs augurs well for the quality of BBB projects, Villar said, noting that major infrastructure undertakings abroad, particularly those in the Middle East, were mainly done by Filipinos.
“We have millions of workers who want to come back any time, and this will create jobs for them, actually.”
In the DPWH alone, Villar said they will be hiring 3,000 more engineers to implement the BBB. The agency is adding seven more lawyers in each regional office. There were only two lawyers per DPWH office and only 10,000 engineers in the agency nationwide.
With additional personnel, Villar said the DPWH aims to improve its absorptive capacity. However, he said the obligations rate of the agency shot up to 92 percent in 2017, despite having its largest budget in its history.
The DPWH, Villar added, is targeting to hit an obligations rate of at least 90 percent for 2018. However, Villar said the overall goal is to keep improving in terms of absorptive capacity and put a stop to underspending.
While the government is opening its doors to more workers for the BBB, Villar said the Duterte administration is strict when it comes to project implementation, specifically the deliverables of contractors.
The government, he disclosed, is now in the process of blacklisting around five to 10 contractors per region that are underperforming, or have failed to deliver on the projects that were awarded to them.
He said these contractors are given a month to fix their existing contracts by catching up with their deliverables.
If they fail, the DPWH will automatically blacklist them, which is in accordance with the directives of the President.
“We want to see the projects finished immediately. We give them time to catch up with slippages. If there’s no viable reason for them, we have to cancel the projects. We have no choice, we have to award it to others who can do the job,” Villar said.
On Wednesday the National Economic and Development Authority Undersecretary for Planning and Policy Rosemarie G. Edillon told the BusinessMirror that there are at least nine projects that will start in the second half of the year that can create more jobs for Filipinos.
However, Edillon said the Neda still needs to crunch the numbers before giving an estimate of how many jobs these projects will create.
Nonetheless, the earlier estimate of creating over a million jobs annually remains true for the administration.
In an interview, former Labor Undersecretary Rene Ofreneo said the BBB could help create more employment moving forward. He said the growth in public construction jobs may be due to faster release of funds for projects.
Image credits: Alysa Salen