GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/15 March) — The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in Region 12 has launched a region-wide awareness campaign for the government’s flagship Special Program for the Employment of Students (SPES) in a bid to enlist more beneficiaries this year.
Chona Mantilla, DOLE Region 12 director, said they are hoping to surpass the number of beneficiaries in the region this year for the summer employment initiative through the forging of more partnerships with local employers and the expansion of its coverage area.
“We’re strengthening the program’s implementation so we can cover more poor but deserving students in the region,” she said.
Region 12, which is also known as the Soccsksargen Region, comprises the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and North Cotabato as well as the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, Kidapawan and Cotabato.
In 2012, DOLE-12 reported that it had covered a total of 7,213 students under the enhanced SPES initiative.
The agency spent around P22.64 million last year for the program’s implementation, specifically for the salaries of the beneficiaries.
Region 12 ranked 11th among the country’s 16 regions in terms of the number of beneficiaries and fifth in terms of funding allocation.
DOLE served a total of 138,635 SPES beneficiaries in the entire country last year or about 99.03 percent of its 140,000 target.
For this year, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said the agency has allotted P441.5 million to accommodate their target of 180,000 beneficiaries.
Mantilla said the DOLE central office has been continually finding ways to strengthen and enhance the program as part of its mandate of implementing “an inclusive bridging employment program and enhancing the employability of young student-workers.”
She said such move was also aimed at bringing education further down to the poor but deserving students across the region.
Established in 1992 under Republic Act (RA) 7323, which was amended by RA 9547, the SPES is open to all qualified high school, college or vocational/technical students, and out-of-school-youth (OSY).
Under the SPES Act, the prospective beneficiaries should be aged between 15 to 25 years old and the combined net income after tax of their parents should not exceed the latest annual regional poverty threshold level for a family of six as determined by the National Economic and Development Authority.
The program is implemented by DOLE through the Public Employment Service Offices of local government units. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)