A congressional leader on Thursday urged the national government to subsidize distressed employers to the tune of P13.7 billion to enable them to pay their workers their 13th-month salary.
“Our workers in the micro, small and medium enterprises have suffered so much since March 15 from layoffs or reduced working days up to now, and it will be cruel to deny Christmas to them by not giving their 13th-month pay,” Rep. Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro City said.
His appeal, contained in Resolution 1310, is specifically addressed to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).
Data from the DOLE and the Philippine Statistics Authority showed that between 1.5 million and 5.1 million SME workers have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, Rodriguez said.
In Cagayan de Oro, more than 16,000 workers have been laid off because of the pandemic, he added.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello lll estimates that P5 billion to P13.7 billion would be needed to subsidize distressed MSME employers so they could pay their personnel their Christmas bonus.
“The government, specifically the DOLE, should come in to implement a subsidy program and provide funds for qualified and distressed employers, particularly micro, small and medium-scale enterprises,”
Rodriguez, chairman of the House committee on constitutional amendments, said.
Due to economic difficulties caused by the pandemic, Rodriguez said many employers “are suffering losses and do not have the funds to pay the mandatory 13th-month pay even if they are willing to do so.”
“In fact, the pandemic has forced scores of businesses to close shop, some temporarily, others permanently,” he said.
He said in the case of workers, millions have lost their jobs, while those who remain employed find it very difficult to make both ends meet.
Meanwhile, Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Senator Sherwin Gatchalian threw their support behind Metro Manila mayors who want a ban on Christmas parties over the holidays to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Gatchalian said Filipinos should learn from the experience of other countries such as the UK, France, and other European countries that are now suffering a second wave of coronavirus infections after they eased quarantine restrictions. Many of them now have had to impose new lockdowns, he said.