A boom for the construction industry
Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez.

A boom for the construction industry

MIKE ABOUT TOWN - Atty. Mike Toledo (The Philippine Star) - May 4, 2021 - 12:00am

The construction industry was one of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Before the imposition of the lockdown last year, the construction industry was expected to grow at 18 percent. But by the end of 2020, the industry had suffered a decline of about 10 percent. Estimates showed that around four million construction workers were affected by the pandemic.

Experts have said, however, that there is a strong chance the industry will bounce back in 2021 — as long as we win the war against COVID-19, and settle into the new normal where construction projects will be allowed to fully resume.

It is in this context that the Construction Industry Authority of the Philippines (CIAP) recently held an online consultation with construction industry stakeholders in line with the National Employment Recovery Strategy (NERS).  

The consultation gathered sectoral perspectives on how industries were dealing with the pandemic, their preparations as the government reopens the economy, and what government can do to support them. 

The information gathered from the event will serve as inputs in crafting government policies or programs towards economic recovery and generation of more employment. 

The National Employment Recovery Strategy, or NERS, is chaired by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) under the dedicated leadership of Secretary Ramon Lopez.

The NERS is a medium-term plan that aims to create employment opportunities, improve employability and productivity of workers, support existing and emerging businesses, taking into consideration the changes in the labor market brought by the pandemic, and the fast adoption of the Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies.

The NERS Task Force Technical Working Group has already identified the construction sector as one of the key employment generators tasked to conduct a consultation with its stakeholders. 

From this and other sectoral consultations, the NERS moved into pre-summit dialogues also held recently, one for the employers and another for the labor sector, both local and migrant. The pre-summit dialogues became the avenue for the presentation and discussion of the consolidated issues, concerns, policies and program interventions gathered during the sectoral consultations.

A job summit was held on Labor Day as a culminating activity to the sectoral consultations and pre-summit dialogues. NERS chairperson Secretary Mon Lopez presented concrete policies and programs under NERS 2021-2022 that will ensure continuous recovery for a more robust labor market. Attendees to the summit were requested to share their support for the action plan via a joint statement.

Back to the construction industry sectoral consultation, I had the privilege of serving as panelist that tackled the question “How has the pandemic affected your respective industries? Please describe how the pandemic affected your cost of operation, sales and revenue, and employment contribution.”

With me in the panel were engineer Liberito V. Espiritu, president, DATEM Inc., and chairman, Philippine Domestic Construction Board (PDCB); engineer Rodrigo T. Pecolera, president of the Society of Philippine Electrotechnical Constructors and Suppliers Inc. (SPECS); and Santiago Nolla, member of the Construction Industry Tripartite Council and secretary general of the National Union of Building and Construction Workers (NUBCW).

I had the opportunity to share the learnings that the MVP Group of Companies had during this pandemic, which could be summed up into two words: transform and perform.

The Group had to transform the businesses to go fully digital and, of course, I could not stress enough how important digital technology is nowadays. There was already a move to shift into digital, but the pandemic just accelerated this exponentially. 

The Group also had to perform, to keep the businesses going and to continue to provide the basic needs of our people — connectivity, power, water, tollways, hospitals, media, etc.

One impact that the pandemic had on the construction aspect of the Group’s businesses was that there was the risk of delay in the completion of projects, in the delivery of construction materials, in the provision of foreign consultants as well as construction workers. 

Thankfully, due to digital accelerated strategy, our infrastructure projects managed to catch up with their intended timelines.

My hats off to the NERS Task Force, especially Secretary Lopez, and his team at the Department of Trade and Industry.

Our economic recovery, including the recovery of the construction industry, would only be possible if both government and the private sector work together in partnership.

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