(STAR) President Arroyo and her labor chief disputed the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showing the national unemployment rate at 27.9 percent, saying job opportunities remain plentiful, even abroad.

President Arroyo told the Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Pampanga chapter at the Holiday Inn here that the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration is processing 3,000 jobs a day as new job markets continue to open up in other countries.

“There are job opportunities,” she said.

“Therefore we want to have our workers find higher paying jobs or avail of reintegration services and livelihood assistance, should any expatriate workers return to the Philippines or for the export workers who get retrenched,” she said.

The President said the government is ensuring that adequate support is provided to displaced workers to keep them competitive.

The SWS survey covered the period Nov. 28 to Dec.1, 2008.

Labor Secretary Marianito Roque, for his part, dismissed the SWS survey as “accurate only for questions with dichotomous responses like yes or no” unlike the “more scientific” Labor Force Survey done by the National Statistics Office.

Roque noted that the Labor Force Survey has 50,000 household samples nationwide compared with only 1,200 samples of the SWS which were drawn from the Commission on Elections’ list of voters.

He said the voters’ list, if used as basis for surveys, “may not be of equal probability, hence does not capture adequate changes in national unemployment situation.”

Roque said the domestic unemployment figure is only 39,000 as of last week.

Of the figure, 12,000 have been assisted by the government in finding replacement jobs.

Meanwhile, the labor department has sent a team to South Korea to discuss with the country’s education officials the possibility of hiring Filipino teachers.

Roque said the DOLE team discussed with Korean Ministry of Education officials the prospects of hiring Filipino English teachers as well as other professional workers in the Incheon Free Export Zone. – Marvin Sy and Mayen Jaymalin

GMA: Stop finger pointing on jueteng By Ding Cervantes and Marvin Sy Updated February 25, 2009 12:00 AM

PHOTO AT LEFT - President Arroyo addresses her cabalen who gathered in front of the presidential residence at the Clark Freeport yesterday. With her are Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno, Central Luzon police director Chief Superintendent Leon Nilo de la Cruz and OIC provincial director Senior Superintendent Gil Lebin.]

CLARK, FREEPORT - President Arroyo urged her critics yesterday to stop finger pointing on the issue of jueteng.

She was apparently referring to Pampanga Gov. Eddie Panlilio who earlier had said that the illegal numbers game has persisted in the province allegedly with the support of Malacañang.

In a short talk before a crowd that gathered in front of the “Bahay ng Puti,” the presidential residence here, yesterday afternoon, the President urged all national and local officials to “fight anything that’s illegal.”

“It is important, I call on everybody, I call on all officials, both local and national, to stop finger pointing and help one another,” she said.

Mrs. Arroyo lamented that such an allegation could emanate from her home province.

The rally of support for the President was attended by Pampanga congressmen, including her son, second district Rep. Mikey Arroyo, mayors, priests led by Fr. Jun Mercado and leaders of civil society groups.

They presented to her a “manifesto and declaration of support” that noted “apparent efforts to destroy the credibility and undermine” her administration.

“The amount of black propaganda cannot change perception that the President has brought distinct pride and honor to the people of Pampanga and continue to foster economic growth and stability not only in Pampanga but in the entire country,” the manifesto stated.

In an interview, Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno challenged Panlilio to prove his allegation that the small town lottery (STL) of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) was being used as front for jueteng in Pampanga.

He said he had sent probers to verify Panlilio’s allegation and they found only legitimate STL operations in the province.

Panlilio earlier had said he was powerless to stop jueteng being masqueraded as STL, as the Philippine National Police failed to appoint his choice as provincial police director.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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