Philippines: P150 minimum wage hike inches forward in Senate

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate labor panel approved “in principle” on Wednesday a proposal for a P150 across-the-board daily minimum wage hike after just one public hearing.

Labor panel chairperson Sen. Jinggoy Estrada ended Wednesday’s hearing on proposals for a legislated wage hike by sending it to a technical working group, indicating that committee deliberations on the measure have ended.

“In principle, the Senate Committee on Labor has already approved our Across-the-Board Wage Increase Act,” Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri told reporters in a text message.

He said the TWG will be discussing a proposed graduated wage increase scheme to lessen the burden of the hike on micro, small and medium enterprises which employ more than 5.4 million Filipinos, according to data presented by the labor department during the hearing.

“We expect that the Committee Report will come out in about two weeks, and we hope to pass the bill before we adjourn in June,” Zubiri said.

Estrada said that they will pass even a P200 wage hike “as long as business establishments can handle it.”

“But if it will lead to the closure of the business establishments or if it will lead to the collapse of our economy, I will not allow that,” said the lawmaker, who has been insisting on balancing the interests of workers and employers.

Estrada first floated the  proposal to amend the wage hike proposal for a staggered implementation of the wage increase, where salaries of workers in MSMEs will be raised at a lower rate compared to larger corporations.

Business group Employers Confederation of the Philippines said during the hearing that they support a review of the minimum wage—which has not kept up with the cost of living in the country—but through regional wage boards that senators called “slow” to implement incremental salary increases.

“We are in favor of reviewing increasing minimum wages, but hopefully it could go through the regional wage boards. We, the employers, after three and a half years of pandemic impact, the employers are also recovering,” ECOP governor Ferdinand Ferrer said.

But Zubiri said “it’s about time” for Congress to step in and legislate a wage hike, noting that the last time the legislature moved to increase salaries of workers was in 1989 before it was delegated to wage boards.

“I think it’s about time, we do one-time big time, balik natin ulit sa regional wage boards,” he said. “It may be a bitter pill, but it’s not so bitter.”

He added: “It will make a big dent on the top 1,000 corporations, I know. But the happiness that you will create, the confidence that you will create, the security of tenure that you will make them feel when you go to work is something that cannot be bought by monetary amounts alone.”