Lawmaker seeks higher budget for DOLE, ERC

AN assistant majority leader of the House of Representatives is prodding Congress to increase the 2021 budget allocations for the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).

Iloilo City Rep. Julienne Baronda said the DOLE should get additional funding next year being one of the frontliners from the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Let us ensure that DOLE and its attached agency OWWA [Overseas Workers Welfare Administration] have the needed budget to help our OFWs [overseas Filipino workers] and all the laborers and workers displaced by the pandemic rebuild their lives,” Baronda, also a member of the House Committee on Economic Affairs and House Committee on Energy, said. “That’s the least that we can do for the labor sector and to the men and women who are mandated to serve and help them.”

Baronda added that the jobs of the OWWA and the DOLE “are not yet over.”

“We need to enable our displaced OFWs to find jobs or do business,” she said. “They are our modern-day heroes who power our economy, no less.”

The OWWA was able to obligate only P1.9 billion or 36.5 percent of the P5.2-billion allotment for Covid-19 initiatives, specifically to augment the Social Protection and Welfare for OFWs program. Actual disbursements amounted to only P1.32 billion.

The Department of Budget and Management granted the DOLE a P27.5-billion budget under the P4.506-trillion National Expenditure Program for 2021. It is higher by 53.7 percent, or P9.624 billion, than this year’s allocation of P17.908 billion.

The Office of the Secretary will receive the highest allocation of P15.9 billion or 57.8 percent of the total proposed DOLE budget for 2021. This is followed by the OWWA with P7.4 billion, the Professional Regulation Commission with P1.6 billion and the National Labor Relations Commission with P1.4 billion.

Both the OWWA and the Office of the Labor Secretary will capture most of the increments for next year. About P11.631 billion would be for agencies attached to the labor department.

Among the programs lined up by the DOLE for next year include aid for disadvantaged and/or displaced workers amounting to P9.938 billion and for integrated livelihood with a funding of P809.516 million. The latter is a grant assistance for capacity-building on livelihood for the working poor, vulnerable and marginalized workers, either for individual or group livelihood projects/undertakings.

Meanwhile, the proposed budget for the special program for employment of students is P605.743 million. This is an “employment bridging” program that aims to provide temporary employment to poor but deserving students, out-of-school youth and dependents of displaced or would-be displaced workers.

ERC

Meanwhile, Baronda also called for a budget increase for the ERC as the DBM only granted more than half of what the agency had requested.

“I believe that electricity is one of the major problems, not only in my district [Iloilo City], but in the entire country. That is why I am very saddened upon knowing that there is a reduction in the proposed budget of the ERC despite their many problems,” she said.

For her part, ERC Chairman Agnes VST Devanadera told lawmakers that with a P1.10-billion budget request allocation, “we are committed and be able to deliver about P200 billion in investment.”

Of the P1.10 billion budget request, the DBM granted only P564.8 million to the ERC for next year.

Of the 2021 budget of the commission, P256.2 million will go to personnel services, P294.9 million will go to maintenance and other operating expense and P13.6 million will go to capital outlay.

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