Villanueva: 45-day public works ban should not affect jobs

Senator Joel Villanueva proposes that the implementation of the 45-day public works ban that takes effect on March 25 “should not affect jobs nor delay the completion of infrastructure projects in calamity areas.”

“Employment should not be a casualty of election. And pandemic recovery should not take a back seat to polls. We have 10.1 million unemployed and underemployed. Let us not worsen this already bleak jobs picture.” Said Villanueva in a statement.

The re-electionist Senator who chairs  Senate labor committee, noted that the number of construction workers on public and private sector projects dipped after the pandemic lockdowns.

He noted that government expenditures account for about 16%  of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), “so any slowdown in public construction will drag down growth,” adding that halting  construction of schools and hospitals “during summer when it is the best time to build before the rains come” will set back their completion.

“We should also take advantage of the ‘good weather window’ to fix farm infrastructure like roads and irrigation,” he added. The 2022 national budget has set aside P1.183 trillion for government infrastructure projects.

Villanueva said the government is still in a catch-up mode because a large portion of the 2020 and 2021 infrastructure funds was shifted to boost health facilities and as assistance to economically-hit households.

He warned that suspending the programmed construction work will further delay their completion and deprive workers of their expected earnings.

Villanueva said election laws and the Commission on Elections (Comelec) may issue resolutions that may grant exemptions from the public works ban. Among projects eligible for exemption are those ongoing or awarded before March 25, and those “emergency work necessitated by the occurrence of  public calamities.”