Friday, May 02, 2008

Senate OKs working students bill on second reading

By Veronica Uy -

MANILA, Philippines -- The Senate earlier this week passed on second reading a bill allowing, among others, more companies to hire working students and for working students to earn credits while working.

Senate Bill 2116, which seeks to amend the Special Program for the Employment of Students 16 years after its initial passage, was sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada, chairman of the labor committee.

In his sponsorship speech, Estrada said SPES was originally set up in 1992 by Republic Act 7323 to encourage poor students to pursue their education through employment -- during summer and Christmas vacations for high school students and throughout the year for those in college or vocational schools.

He said some 984,840 students have benefited under SPES since 1995.

Under the system, SPES-registered employers pay 60 percent of the salaries of SPES-certified poor students in cash, while the government issues education vouchers worth 40 percent of their salaries to pay for tuition and book expenses. It is open to Filipinos between 15 and 25 years old.

The bill is expected to pass third reading next Tuesday, as no senator introduced any changes.

The Senate approved the following amendments to the current law:
• Change the requirement for companies that seek to qualify under SPES from having 50 employees down to 16;
• Grant academic credits to students employed in activities related to their courses;
• Require employers to inform student-workers of their rights, benefits, and privileges under existing laws and company policies;
• Penalize persons or entities who refuse or dishonor educational vouchers by the government; and
• Remove threshold amount (formerly pegged at P36,000) for maximum family income requirement.

"They earn and learn system of SPES has been extremely helpful in assisting poor but deserving students finance their education and open opportunities for employment. It also develops the productive work ethic of our young working students," Estrada said in a statement.

Citing statistics provided by labor regional offices, SPES has benefited in 2006 alone more than 60,000 students who were employed in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, electronics, and other industries all over the country.

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