Colmenares, Roque back national minimum wage for Filipinos

MANILA, Philippines – Senatorial bets Neri Colmenares and Harry Roque support the proposal to set a national minimum wage for Filipino workers. 

The two senatorial candidates, along with ex-Quezon congressman Erin Tañada, was asked during  CNN Philippines' senatorial forum on Sunday, January 27, whether or not they support setting a national minimum wage.

The question was emailed to the television network by Kilusang Mayo Uno, one of the Philippines' major labor groups. (READ: [OPINION] Why the clamor for higher wages is justified

Colmenares said he had long been pushing for a P750 national minimum wage since his days as Bayan Muna representative in Congress. (READ: Makabayan lawmakers file bill for P750 national minimum wage)

He explained that the national minimum wage of P537 in Metro Manila or the National Capital Region (NCR) is higher compared to the provinces, where the prices of basic goods may even be more expensive.

"Mataas pa nga minsan ang gasolina doon. The inflation rate in many regions is practically higher, if not the same, ng NCR. So bakit mas mataas ang sahod sa NCR, mababa ang sa probinsiya? Dapat po pantay-pantay, patas ang sahod sa national minimum wage law," said Colmenares. 

(Sometimes, the price of gasoline is even higher there. The inflation rate in many regions is practically higher, if not the same, as NCR. So how come the minimum wage is higher in NCR and lower in the provinces? It should be fair under a national minimum wage law.) 

Former presidential spokesperson Roque also said he supports the proposal, as it is the government's primary job to "take care of workers."

"Tapos na 'yung mga panahon na iniisip natin na pareho po ang lagay ng mga manggagawa at employers. Nakasaad na po sa desisyon ng Korte Suprema na talagang hindi sila magiging pantay. At sa ating Saligang Batas, talagang papanig po ang ating gobyerno para sa mga manggagawa," said Roque.

(Gone are the days when we used to think that the circumstances for laborers and employers are the same. The Supreme Court itself already decided that this is not the case. And our Constitution, our government, will always side with the workers.)

Still, Roque said the national minimum wage should be set at a rate that would also not be detrimental to companies.

Reviewing the work of regional wage boards

As for Tañada, the opposition coalition's advocate for farmers and laborers, he is in favor of a "review of the wage structure" in the country.

Tañada, however, did not say whether or not he supports a national minimum wage. Still, he agrees that the system needs to be changed so Filipino laborers would be able to have enough money for their daily needs.

"Dahil alam naman po natin, kapag tumaas ang presyo ng langis, nationwide. 'Pag tumaas ang presyo ng bigas, nationwide. Kapag tumaas ang presyo ng kuryente, kung minsan mas mahal pa sa probinsiya kaysa sa Metro Manila," he said.

(We know that when fuel prices go up, it happens nationwide. We know that when the price of rice goes up, it happens nationwide. When electricity rates increase, sometimes they're even more expensive in the provinces than in Metro Manila.)

According to Tañada, the manner by which regional wage boards set the minimum wage in their area is "unjust" and should be changed.

"Kaya importante tignan po natin kung makatarungan pa ba ang paggamit ng regional wage board sa pagtakda ng minimum wage. Sa tingin ko po, hindi na makatarungan 'yan at kailangan po nating buksan ang pag-uusap tungkol dito para mahanap po natin ang disenteng suweldo para sa lahat," said Tañada. 

(That's why it's important for us to assess if the regional wage board is still rightly setting the minimum wage. For me, it's already unjust and we must start discussing how to arrive at a decent minimum wage for everyone.) – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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