Opposition lawmakers on Wednesday expressed dismay over the Labor Department’s admission during budget deliberations that its funding for social amelioration programs, including the Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers and COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program can only cover around 2 million beneficiaries.
Under the 2021 National Expenditure Program submitted to Congress, DOLE is allocated only 11.1 billion to continue its one-time cash assistance to displaced workers in the formal and informal sectors.
“If we look at the displacement among our labor force which the Philippine Statistics Authority pegged at 4.6 million for July, the P11.1 billion will not be enough,” Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite said, noting that the amount covers only around 2.15 million beneficiaries.
During the budget hearing, Gaite said the Labor Department also admitted that they failed in assisting majority of workers during the first tranche of the social amelioration programs released at the onset of the lockdown. Gaite said that this should not happen again.
“Our proposal is to double the budget for DOLE’s SAPs,” he said, adding that the P19.1 billion allocated to the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) should augment the funding for DOLE’s SAP to benefit an additional 3.5 million workers.
The Makabayan Bloc in the House where Gaite is a member, likewise welcomed the DOLE’s support to the Bayan Muna’s House Bill 7590 or the Unemployment Benefits Act of 2020 which proposes a P10,000 unemployment benefits to all involuntarily displaced workers.
According to Labor Undersecretary Benjo Benavidez, the department “supports any measure that would benefit the workers.”
“Direct financial assistance would not only help the unemployed but would also pump prime the economy as it would directly increase consumer spending. We hope to work with DOLE and Secretary (Silvestre) Bello in working for more budget for these assistance programs,” Gaite said.
In a related development, Ang Probinsyano Partylist Rep. Alfredo delos Santos sought an additional P8,000 financial aid for public school teachers under the Personnel Economic Relief Allowance to address the gap between their monthly income and the approximate living wage in the Philippines for a family of five.
In House Bill 6329, or the proposed act increasing the PERA of public school teachers, delos Santos said that his proposal will enhance and uplift their living and working conditions, as well as secure their right to a living wage.
Delos Santos, an assistant majority leader, said that even with the pay adjustment of the lowest salary grade teachers (Salary Grade 11 for Teacher 1) to P22,316 after the first tranche of increase under the Salary Standardization Law, the rate still falls below the approximate living wage of P30,270 per family of five.
“Hence, it is proposed in the bill that the PERA granted to public school teachers must be increased to at least P8,000, an amount which would, at least, substantially cover the discrepancy,” Delos Santos said.
“It has become necessary to grant the much-deserved increase in the benefits given to our public school teachers,” he added.
The increase in the take-home pay of uniformed personnel, the party-list lawmaker said, emphasizes the need to adjust upward the salaries of public school teachers.
As of April 2020, there are 965,660 regular employees in the Department of Education, more than 805,000 of whom hold teaching positions, while over 43,000 others are doing teaching-related jobs.