SENATOR Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada has filed a counterpart bill in the Senate that will ensure gainful employment for reformed drug users and provide incentives to companies that hire them.

“Providing incentives to establishments that will employ rehabilitated drug dependents who are graduates of technical-vocational education and training (TVET) programs specifically designed for them will provide reformed drug users a holistic support system for their re-integration to society,” Estrada said in filing Senate Bill No. 2276.

A staunch labor advocate, Estrada is proposing a collaboration between the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in developing TVET programs specifically created for rehabilitated drug dependents.

The TVET and livelihood programs will focus on equipping individuals with competitive and employable skills, enhancing their chances of finding sustainable employment or pursuing entrepreneurial opportunities.

The bill seeks to institutionalize the programs, ensuring their continuity and providing sufficient funding for their implementation.

Estrada said TESDA has been providing training and livelihood scholarships to former drug dependents since 2016 and in 2021, of which 94 percent or 8,200 out of the 8,700 former drug dependents have already graduated from various courses from TESDA.

“This is enough indication of the willingness of a large percentage of former drug dependents to lead better lives. It’s important to sustain the support that is being provided to them and expand its scope to include skills training and productivity enhancement that will prepare them to be self-reliant and qualified for gainful employment,” the chairperson of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment, and Human Resources Development said.

“This will not only improve their families’ economic conditions but will also contribute to the country’s development,” Estrada also said. (ai/mnm)