On November 8, the Makabayan bloc in the Lower House of Congress filed House Bill (HB) 246 or the National Minimum Wage Bill. The said bill seeks to implement a uniform national minimum wage rate of P750 for private sector workers.

However, this was the third time they filed the proposed law.

Makabayan lawmakers deemed that the bill is long overdue but has remained necessary given the hardships of many people at the height of a pandemic.

“Now more than ever, we need to immediately help our kababayans to cope with the crisis. Sufficient aid and a National Minimum Wage can help them survive with the high cost of living in the country,” urged Makabayan in its statement.

The lawmakers pushed the immediate passing of HB 246 before the session ends this year, as well as urging their counterparts in the Senate to support the National Minimum Wage bill. They also called on President Rodrigo Duterte to heed the demands of his countrymen and certify as urgent the said bill.

“We need to act fast and have the political will to help the Filipinos as they suffer the crisis brought about by the pandemic,” they added.

Wage rationalization

In Metro Manila, the minimum wage of non-agriculture earners remains at P 537 daily since 2018. This is even the highest minimum wage rate, compared to other regions like Bicol with only around P310 per day for provincial wage rate.

Minimum wage in various regions in the country have varied since the enactment of the Wage Rationalization Act or Republic Act (RA) 6727 in 1989.

Workers said the law effectively maintained or stuck wages at a low rate, unable to catch up with rising prices of goods, with increases low and few and far in between years. The varying wages in regions also served to disunite workers

The National Economic and Development Authority said at least P1,600 daily, or P42,000 a month, is needed in order to have a decent life.

Wage increase, price decrease, sufficient aid for all pushed

A protest action was held outside the House of Representatives in Sandiganbayan, in Quezon City as Makabayan bloc filed HB 246. Labor unions, urban poor, and jeepney drivers called for “Sahod itaas, presyo ibaba” [wage increase, price decrease] and “Ayudang sapat, para sa lahat” [sufficient aid for all].

Progressive groups blamed the Duterte government and several big businesses for perpetuating—even benefitting from—the ongoing crisis.

PISTON deputy secretary-general Ruben Baylon lamented oil price increases that drive prices of goods given their meager earnings since most operations have yet to return to normal.

“Sa bawat piso na pagtaas ng krudo na aming ginagamit sa pang-araw araw ay katumbas nito ang pagliit ng kita naming mga driver at operator at pagliiit ng maiuuwi namin sa aming tahanan. Kaakibat pa nito ang pagtaas pa ng mga presyo ng bilihin,” Baylon said.

[For every peso increase in the price of gas we use daily equates to contraction of the earnings of drivers and operators that we can bring homes. Added to this is the rise of prices of goods.

Since January this year, oil prices hiked up to P18.25 per liter for diesel to P20.8 per liter for gasoline.

Baylon decried the excise and expanded value added tax on petroleum products that the government imposed aside from the oil price hikes. Under the TRAIN Law, the excise tax for diesel will add P 2.50, P 4.50 and P6 in the current price, and gasoline prices with P 7, 9 and 10 in excise tax in 2018, 2019 and 2020. The government earned more when oil prices increase.

“Dapat ding ibasura itong batas na oil deregulation law na nagbibigay ng pahintulot nang walang pakundangan ang lingguhang pagtaas ng mga kartel ng langis,” Baylon said.

[Oil deregulation law that allowed unabated and weekly oil price increases from the oil cartel should be junked.]

The few big players in the oil industry have been able to dictate oil prices, even pricing it higher or implementing lower price rollbacks than the prices in the world market, he said.

Oil companies have been allowed to increase oil prices without public consultation under Oil Deregulation Law or RA 8479.


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