Duterte certifies as urgent pay hike for gov't workers

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CNN Philippines (Metro Manila, December 16) – President Rodrigo Duterte has certified as urgent a bill that seeks to provide government workers a new round of salary increases.

Duterte's certification as urgent of the measure means it can clear the legislature on second and third reading on the same day, paving a speedier path for the enactment of the bill into law.

The Senate approved Monday the bill on third reading in a 21-0 vote, with Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon abstaining as he prefers a five-percent wage hike for all government workers.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives passed the measure on second reading on the same day that the House Committee on Appropriations approved it.

Once the House approves the measure on third reading, representatives from both chambers will meet in a bicameral conference committee to thresh out differences in the measures that they passed. The bicam will then prepare a committee report which will be ratified by Congress before sending the final version of the measure for Duterte's approval.

Alternatively, Congress can skip the bicameral conference committee and send the bill straight to Duterte if one chamber decides to adopt the other chamber's version.

Lawmakers are hoping to pass the bill into law before they go on a break for the holidays. Congress will adjourn on Friday.

Appropriations panel chair Isidro Ungab of Davao City 3rd District endorsed to the plenary Monday afternoon the approved committee report on the proposed fifth tranche of the Salary Standardization Law (SSL).

Ungab had earlier expressed hope that Duterte will certify the bill as urgent so that the lower chamber can approve the measure as quickly as possible before it can be implemented in 2020.

Under the measure, the implementation of the four tranches will begin annually every first of January starting 2020 until 2023.

The government allotted a budget of ₱34 billion to fund the pay hike under the proposed ₱4.1-trillion 2020 budget. However, under the four-year period, Salary Grade 1 employees will only get an increase of ₱500 per year in their monthly salary

"Salary Grade 1, the smallest category, will now be ₱13,000 per month. So yun ang magiging pinakamaliit (that will be the smallest). That's an increase of about ₱2,000 from ₱11,000 to ₱13,000," Ungab explained to the media.

"Kung kaya lang ibigay ang mataas (if we can only make it higher), why not? Ang problema (the problem is) we also have limited funds," he said.

ACT Teachers Party-list Rep. France Castro said that she supports the move to raise the salary of governmnt employees but laments that public school teachers will be among those seeing a small increase in their monthly pay.

"Sobra namang napakabarat nitong proposal na ito ng DBM (Department of Budget and Management) at liderato ng House dahil matagal na naming hinihingi ang30,000," she said.

[Translation: This is such a measly proposal coming from the DBM and the House because we have been asking for a ₱30,000 basic pay for so long.]

Under the measure, personnel from national government agencies will source their funds from the 2020 General Appropriations Act, local government units from their respective local government funds and government owned and controlled corporations from their respective funds in the corporate operating budgets approved by the DBM.

CNN Philippines Correspondents Xianne Arcangel and Joyce Ilas contributed to this report.