Mindanao business leaders warn vs P125 wage hike

Allan Yaphockun, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry-Southern Mindanao governor, fearlessly projected workforce retrenchment or total business closures by small and medium enterprises (SMEs) which could not bear the additional burden.

“In fact, if you just walk around the area, even the minimum wage hike is not being observed. How much more with the P125 across-the-board wage hike? Such measure is very disastrous,” he said.

PCCI-Southern Mindanao covers the Southeastern Mindanao (Region 11 or the Davao provinces) and parts of Southwestern Mindanao (Region 12) —  South Cotabato, Sarangani and Sultan Kudarat and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal and Tacurong.

While he failed to give actual figures, Yaphockun, whose business is based in South Cotabato, said compliance by the SMEs on the minimum wage is very low.

The minimum wage of private workers in the area, which was last adjusted in 2005, was P213.50 per day for those in the non-agriculture sector, P200 for those in the agriculture sector, and P206 for those in the retail/service establishments.

Late last week, the House approved on third and final reading the wage hike bill to be implemented on a staggered basis as follows:  P45 in 2007; P40 in 2008; and another P40 in 2009.

The bill has yet to get the approval of the Senate before submission to President Gloria Arroyo for signing.

Yaphockun said  PCCI governors in five regions of Mindanao and other business leaders in the island will meet early next month to come up with a common stand on a legislated wage hike.

But the sentiment of the business leaders in Mindanao, he said, is against the P125 legislated wage hike. The bill has been pending before the Lower House for several years until its surprised approval last week by the congressmen.

“We strongly urge the Senate to junk the P125 across-the-board wage hike. We hope the senators will be more sensitive to the plight of the business sector,” Yaphockun said.

Carlito Uy, president of the South Cotabato Chamber of Commerce and Industry Foundation, Inc., warned the P125 across-the-board wage hike will lead to layoff of workers.

He said a significant number of SMEs do not follow the minimum wage rate imposed by the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board.

“But employers make do by giving their workers non-wage benefits like food, transportation and shelter assistance,” he said.

Yaphockun said that if the bill is signed into law, the regional wage boards won’t have  work to do in the next three years. “What’s the purpose of the regional wage boards if we have a law on wage hike?” he asked.

Militant labor groups in the area hailed, however, the passage of the legislated wage hike by the Lower House.

Jose Teruel, local chair of the Kilusang Mayo Uno said the approval of a legislated wage hike in the private sector has long been overdue as he also pressed a P3,000 across-the-board monthly increase for state workers.

“The workers have suffered enough with the regular increases in oil and prices of other commodities,” he said. (MindaNews)