How much will the wage increase be?

Lim cited the rising cost of living as one of the reasons for the wage increase. How much it will be will be known after the series of public consultations that started Monday.

Southwestern Mindanao comprises the provinces of South Cotabato, Sarangani, Sultan Kudarat and North Cotabato and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, Kidapawan and Cotabato.

Records showed that prices of goods and services in the region have significantly increased from 2.7 percent in 2003 to 24 percent in 2006.

For example, a can of condensed milk now costs from P38 to P40 compared to its 2003 price of P27.  “An increase of about 30 percent in just three years,” said Leonard Flores, officer-in-charge of the consumer welfare division of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) 12.  The price of  white and red sugar also increased by more than 50 percent from 2003 to 2006, he said.

The prices of canned fish, coffee, soap, flour, vinegar, and construction materials, have also increased, he said.

Another important indicator in looking at the wage issue is the average price of crude oil, said Lim.  “Being dependent on imported crude oil, this would practically put our economy in a hostage situation,” she told a public consultation held today at the AJ Hi-Time Hotel here.

The prevailing minimum wage of private workers, she said, “is considerably inadequate and insufficient to meet the continuing rise in the cost of living, particularly for families with only one parent working.”

“Though poverty has reduced in Region 12 by 8.6 percent in 2005, still, that is not enough,” she said. 

In 2003, the poverty threshold in the region for a family of six, was P67, 968 per year or P5,664 monthly.             

For a P213.50 daily minimum wage in the region, a worker in a non-agriculture sector receives P5,536 for a 26-day work in a month – some P130 lower than that of the poverty threshold.

But Lim said the daily wage in the region is the third highest in Mindanao, next to Southern Mindanao (Region 11) and 10 (Northern Mindanao).    “This would have likely adverse effects of implications on the investment decision of businesses wanting to come here,” said Lim.

Labor, she stressed, is one of the major production cost of entrepreneurs, saying, “if this is higher than most of the regions in Mindanao, the tendency would probably be that these investors would go to Caraga, Region 9, or the ARMM.”

The deliberations and approval of a wage order for the region, according to Lim, “is inevitable at this time.”

 “But such level of adjustment should be fair and just to all concerned – both the workers and employers.   This is to ensure that there would be no massive layoffs or shutdowns in businesses after the salary hike,” said Joel Gonzales, secretary of the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board.

 “For workers, their wages are their source of income and status in the society; while for the employers, they want an appropriate return of investment and they make sure their enterprise or business is still viable,” he said.

The RTWPB-12 conducted consultations in Cotabato City on July 17;  Kidapawan on July 18 and Koronadal City on July 19. (Malu Cadelina-Manar/MindaNews)