By Jenina P. Ibañez

THE construction industry is seeking to attract returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) displaced by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Chamber of Real Estate and Builders’ Association (CREBA) Chairman Charlie A. V. Gorayeb said in a phone interview on Monday that the industry expects major revenue losses from projects delayed by the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Luzon.

“But the construction and real estate development industry is very resilient… everything is still in place… Physically in the sense that our people are there, ready on call. In addition to that, the displaced workers, the OFWs that are skilled — that is good for our sector. I’m sure we will be able to absorb them,” he said.

In January, Mr. Gorayeb said the industry is incurring additional costs due to a continued shortage of skilled construction workers and equipment. Many construction workers have continued to leave the country for better-paying jobs abroad.

The Labor department is offering cash assistance for OFWs that have been laid off amid a global slowdown due to the pandemic.

SM Investments Corp. (SMIC) Vice-Chairperson Teresita T. Sy-Coson had also said that some resumed business operations will ease unemployment as OFWs return.

Mr. Gorayeb said returning OFWs are mostly skilled, which will benefit the construction industry.

“There are many opportunities because of the pending projects,” he said.

Mr. Gorayeb said the government should allow some work to resume in construction sites, with workers housed nearby.

“The developer will provide that, especially subdivision developers, to have an area where we can appropriate for workers and keep the social distancing,” he said, adding that developers can also offer shuttle services, monitoring, and sanitation measures.

Sectors that are currently allowed to operate with minimized work forces during the ECQ include those that offer essential goods such as groceries and pharmacies, export-oriented businesses, business process outsourcing, and support services for those businesses.

Other sectors are operating with work-from-home measures.

Mr. Gorayeb added that when construction operations resume, local governments should ensure permits will be issued more efficiently to prevent even more delays.

“Our biggest headache is local government when it comes to those permits. It’s our number one stumbling block.”

The ECQ was extended up to April 30, from the initial April 12.

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