With the threat of climate change, the international community created the Paris Agreement which aims to stop global warming and preserve the environment for our future generations. The international community is then rightfully geared towards promoting economic growth within the context of sustainable and environmentally-responsible development. As a result, new work opportunities, called ‘green jobs’, are now emerging in the field of sustainable green development. In support of the new green jobs, a new legal framework is needed. With the Philippines being a signatory to the Paris Agreement, the country has thusly followed suit with the rest of the international community through the enactment of R.A. No. 10771 or the Philippine Green Jobs Act (PGJA) of 2016.

The PGJA is the first piece of legislation in the country’s history specifically designed to generate, sustain and incentivise green jobs in order to develop an environmentally-friendly economy. The PGJA was enacted by the Philippine legislature on April 29, 2016 and took effect on May 18, 2016. Prior to the PGJA, incentives given to enterprises for adopting green practices were scattered in different laws such as the Organic Agriculture Act of 2010 (R.A. No. 10068) and Renewable Energy Act of 2008 (R.A. No. 9513). Previously, there was no legal concept relating to green jobs in the country.

However, under the PGJA, green jobs are now recognised and defined as any form of employment in any economic sector that contributes to the quality of the environment. Additionally, these green jobs are required to be “decent”, in that they are productive, respect worker rights, deliver fair income, provide workplace security, provide social protection for families and promote social dialogue.

In addition to fiscal and non-fiscal incentives already granted or provided under existing laws, orders, issuances and regulations, the PGJA enumerates the following financial incentives to encourage business enterprises even further to walking the environmentally-friendly route in the creation of green jobs:
(1) a “special deduction from the taxable income equivalent to 50 percent of the total expenses for skills training and research development expenses”; and
(2) tax and duty free importation of capital equipment actually, directly and exclusively used in the promotion of green jobs.

Based on these incentives, business enterprises are encouraged to not only hire employees skilled in preserving the environment, but also train or educate their current employees. Business enterprises are also encouraged to conduct research so as to reduce the environmental impact of their operations. In this regard, we may then expect the PGJA to lead to a redefinition of many jobs across a range of sectors and in turn encourage employment growth, skills development and worker training within an ever-increasingly green economy.

In order to make sure that green jobs become instrumental in the greening of the Philippine economy, the PGJA adds the Secretary of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) as a member of the Philippine Climate Change Commission. In this regard, the DOLE is tasked to formulate a National Green Jobs Human Resource Development (HRD) Plan, in coordination with other government agencies. Currently, we are seeing some healthy progress, with the DOLE Secretary indicating that HRD roadmaps for 27 industries have already been formulated. Furthermore, the PGJA also mandates the DOLE, together with the Philippine Statistics Authority, to maintain a database of green careers, professions and skills, as well as a list of emerging business enterprises, that generate and sustain green jobs.

Indeed, this new law was created for the service of and within a global context. The PGJA itself is a product of the Green Jobs Initiative, a global partnership of the International Labour Organisation, the United Nations Environment Programme, the International Trade Union Confederation, and the International Organisation of Employers. Furthermore, research for the PGJA was also funded by the Australian Agency of International Development.

Now that we have a statutory definition of green jobs, backed with the grant of incentives, business enterprises are then highly encouraged to partake in efforts to prevent global warming and at the same time generate more sustainable jobs for Filipinos. I thus look forward to the release of the Internal Rules and Regulations (IRR) that shall lay down the specifics for the new investments and new job opportunities that we certainly need to build a clean and green nation.

(This first appeared in Business World, a newspaper of general circulation in the Philippines)

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