PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino will fly to Cebu today to mark Labor Day, but the Palace denied suggestions that this was to avoid protest rallies by workers’ groups in Metro Manila that have triggered a heightened police alert.
“The President has never avoided rallies or critical statements from our countrymen, whom he considers his bosses,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said.
He added that the President has consistently worked for additional benefits for the labor sector since he assumed the presidency in 2010.
Among the achievements of the administration, Coloma said, were increased tax exemptions for bonuses and other benefits.
The Social Weather Stations reported that its recent survey showed that the number of unemployed Filipinos decreased by about 3.4 million in the first quarter of 2015 to about 9 million adults.
This resulted in a jobless rate of 19.1 percent, the lowest in four and a half years, the SWS said.
The SWS definition of joblessness differs from that used by the government, however, and the Philippine Statistics Authority figure is usually lower.
A spokesman for the Philippine National Police (PNP) said they would be on hieghtened alert on the eve of Labor Day.
Thousands of workers are expected to flood major streets in Metro Manila to march to Mendiola to protest government policies on labor. Similar demonstrations are also expected in other cities and provinces across the country.
“The PNP is on heightened alert in Luzon and Visayas, and full alert in Mindanao, fully prepared and ready to address any peace and order situation that may arise anywhere across the country as the nation celebrates Labor Day,” said Senior Supt. Bartolome Tobias, PNP spokesman.
He urged organizers of the mass actions to police their own ranks against infiltrators and saboteurs who might take advantage of the situation.
“We assure [the pulbic] that there will be no confrontation, no dispersal, and no use of compelling force if only public assemblies are held in accordance with law, and all actions are well within legal bounds,” Tobias said.
He said cameramen would be deployed in ares of engagement to document the actions of the police and the protesters.
The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) said that with just over a year left in his administration, President Aquino has failed to fulfill his promises to millions of workers.
Forty-nine labor groups and workers organizations from the Nagkaisa coalition are scheduled to assemble at the Welcome Rotunda on España and march toward Chino Roces Bridge in Mendiola where they will assemble.
“Today is the fifth Labor Day under President Aquino. It comes a day after the stay of execution of Mary Jane Veloso--one of the millions forced by non-existent jobs at home to brave the scary, lonely, and often fatal world of the overseas work. We are reminded of the 40 million other disenfranchised workers, who have seen how the man-made problems of our government can somehow escape being man-solved. How for the excluded basic social sectors there is still no one in government they can trust or run to. For them as the majority of Filipinos, the message to our President: This is just not acceptable; we can do better,” said Gerard Seno, TUCP-Nagkaisa vice president.
TUCP-Nagkaisa and other Nagkaisa labor coalition groups called off plans to seek an annual breakfast dialogue with the President, after he failed to deliver a workable and time-bound eight-point policy agenda proposed by the group in 2012. With Macon Ramos-Araneta
The plan calls for streamlining of the contractual labor scheme, increasing wages for private employees and government workers amid rising costs of goods and services, lowering electricity rates, and implementing an agro-industrial plan to create stable jobs.
The Nagkaisa labor coalition has also called for bigger tax exemptions, a reform of the wage-setting mechanism, the passage of the freedom of information bill, and in-city relocation of squatters living in dangerous areas.
The group has also proposed a voucher program and unemployment insurance for minimum wage workers, and a return of the government subsidy for the Metro Manila commuter trains.
TUCP-Nagkaisa executive director Louie Corral said the lastes Pulse Asia surey showed that four of the five urgent national concerns among Filipinos relate to their daily survival needs, with 46 percent saying they were concerned because the prices of basic needs—food, electricity, transportation and education—were spiraling beyond their means.
The survey, conducted between March 1 and 7, showed that 44 percent belived their salaries were not enough to cover their daily expenses, and that 34 percent said there were no decent jobs where they lived. Another 37 percent believed that there has been no substantial reduction in poverty.
Unlike the more militant groups, the Philippine Trade and General Workers Organization (PTGWO), , said it will not to join the Labor Day rallies but deploy 5,000 volunteers instead to sweep Roxas Boulevard in Manila and nearby areas, said Arnel Z. Dolendo, national president of the federation.
Officials from the Manila City government, the Labor Department and the Metro Manila Development Authority have been invited to be guests at the program.
“Usually, after their labor day parade, the streets of the Metro are left dirty with the trash of the rallyists. With this group it is the opposite,” said MMDA chairman Francis Tolentino.
Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz applauded the PTGWO for choosing a clean-up activity to highlight its Labor Day commemoration.
“This is a different kind of Labor Day event for the PTGWO. I believe this indicates PTGWO’s high level of maturity in its fastidious effort to protect the welfare of workers. It’s a creative way to exercise its role as a partner,” she said.
On the eve of Labor Day, Vice President Jejomar Binay urged the government to grant higher tax exemptions for millions of workers to boost their purchasing power.
Binay said that higher tax exemptions is just because millions of workers living below the poverty line would benefit.
“There is a need to revisit and streamline our existing income tax system to lower tax rates and grant higher exemptions to our workers,” the Vice President said in his Labor Day message.
“At the same time, serious efforts must be made to stabilze the prices of basic commodities to preserve if not enhance our workers’ purchasing power,” he added.
Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano urged the government to observe Labor Day by honoring the more than 10 million Filipinos working abroad.
He said it is about time to have a full-time Department of Foreign Employment that will protect them and fight for their welfare.
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