“The amendatory bill to the Special Program for the Employment of Students (SPES) Act of 1992 is now a law!,” happily announced Director Dominique Rubia-Tutay of the Department of Labor and Employment-Bureau of Local Employment (DOLE-BLE).

 One (1) of DOLE’s youth employment facilitation program, the SPES, provides short-term job opportunities to help students pursue and continue their education. Originally mandated by Republic Act (RA) No. 7323 in 1992, the program intends to overcome youth unemployment as it aims to provide poor but deserving high school, vocational or college students the opportunity to be employed and compensated during summer and/or Christmas breaks.

 

The SPES Act was initially amended by RA 9574 in 2009 that expanded the program’s reach, to include the out-of-school youth or student drop-outs who have good track record, but were forced to stop schooling due to financial constraints, encouraging them to enroll in the next school term.  Private companies and employers were also encouraged to take part in shaping responsible citizens by employing students and compensating them equally as employees.

 The RA 10917, the new act which lapsed into law by the end of July 2016 subsequent former President’s Benigno S. Aquino III’s turnover of seat to newly-elected President Rodrigo R. Duterte, strengthens the SPES as it aims to expand the coverage of the program to include not only poor but deserving students and out-of-school youth, but also dependents of displaced workers, and would-be displaced workers due to business closures or work stoppages, or natural calamities, who intend to enroll in any secondary, tertiary or technical-vocational institutions.

 “Under the SPES, out-of-school youth and those enrolled in the tertiary, vocational or technical education may be employed any time of the year, while students enrolled in the secondary level can be employed only during summer and/or Christmas vacations,” clarified the Director.

 The act extends the SPES employment period from 52 days to 78 days or three (3) months, and raises the age limit of the program’s beneficiaries from the current 15 to 25 years old to 15 to 30 years old. In addition, students who are employed in activities related to their course may earn equivalent academic and practicum or on-the-job training credits.

 Finally, the SPES beneficiaries will now be entitled to social protection by virtue of an insurance coverage with the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) for a period of one (1) year, under the new act.

 “Employers pay in cash 60% of the salary of student beneficiaries, while the remaining 40% is shouldered by the government to be paid also in cash to be used for the students’ tuition fees and other education related expenses including their daily allowance for food and transportation in going to school,” she continued.

Almost 30 bills submitted by the Congress to the Malacañang have also lapsed into law by the end of July 2016. The RA 10911 or the Anti-Age Discrimination in Employment Act which the DOLE has also lobbied for is among these.

 Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara authored and sponsored the originating Senate Bill (SB) No. 3090 that was approved by the Senate on 1 February 2016. This bill, before being approved and submitted to Malacañang, was adopted as an amendment to House Bill (HB) No. 6414 by the House of Representatives on 23 May 2016. The HB was authored and sponsored by Representative Karlo Alexei B. Nograles (1st District, Davao City).

 Section 3 of act authorizes the DOLE Secretary to issue the its implementing rules and regulations. In addition, additional guidelines which may be deemed appropriate may also be released. “The DOLE, with prior consultation and endorsement of the key stakeholders, will issue guiding and regulatory documents by the end of the year,” ended Director Tutay.

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