By Maria Katreena Saguid

Continuing the long-standing tradition of rallies to commemorate the birth of Andres Bonifacio, hero and peasant leader, labor groups took the streets on to demand true reforms in labor policy, Nov. 30.

Implement a national minimum wage and end contractualization were the cries of labor groups in a protest held in España, Manila. They later convened with the youth towards Mendiola to take part of the anti-marcos burial protest.

Presently, wages were determined by Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Boards and reviewed by the National Wages and Productivity Commission by virtue of Republic Act No. 6727 also known as the “Wage Rationalization Act.”

Because of this, the daily minimum wage varied per region with the National Capital Region offering the highest rate of P491 pesos for non-agriculture.

It was a stark contrast to the P265 daily minimum wage of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and Bicol Region.

Table 1. Wages per region (from Philippine Statistics Office)

Table 2. Minimim wage rate per sector (from Philippine Statistics Office)


Average minimum wage per region (from Philippine Statistics Office)

Early September, President Rodrigo Duterte through Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III expressed his desire for a nationwide minimum wage to discourage domestic labor migration.

The present trend was for people from the provinces to move to urban centers such Metro Manila and Cebu City in order to find decent work.

As a result, NCR had become the most densely populated region in the country with 19,988 people per square kilometer.


Table 3. Population statistics (from Philippine Statistics Office)

Seeking the aid of federalism

Aside from the need to bring lasting peace to conflict-ridden areas in the ARMM region, the Duterte administration’s incline towards a federal government was also because of the need to decentralize power and decongest Metro Manila.

During Duterte’s presidential campaign, he said that under a federal system, the local government would only need to give 30% of its income to the national government and the remaining 70% would be retained for the locality’s budget.

Should it push through, the federal system would also impact on the gross domestic product of each region with the national government acting as an overseer rather than a key player in economic development.


Table 3. Gross regional domestic product (from Philippine Statistics Office)

It was also widely believed that the shift to a federal government could help in equalizing wages similar to what the United States had done by implementing a federal minimum wage at $7.25 per hour.

Other countries with federal governments also had fixed minimum wages like Australia, Brazil, Germany, Belgium and Russia.

However, labor leaders doubted how federalism could address the woes of the labor sector.


In Photo: Fernando Hicap | by Beatriz Decena

Hindi solusyon yung federalism sa pagkakaroon ng national minimum wage,” former Anakpawis representative Fernando Hicap said.

Hicap said that if the government really meant to implement changes in labor policy and uplift workers’ rights then it should first abolish regional wage boards and make contractualization illegal.

Hicap was one of the primary authors of House Bill No. 5140 which forbids contractualization or outsourcing of labor.

In the 17th congress, it was re-filed as House Bill No. 556 authored by representatives from Anakpawis, Gabriela, Kabataan, Bayan Muna and Act Teachers partylists.

“Kailangan dyan matupad mo yung regularization, pagbawal ng contractualization, tapos ipatupad ang nakabubuhay na sahod,” Hicap said.

According to Hicap, another problem with country’s labor policy was that workers did not enjoy job security. “Pag contractual ka, wala kang seguridad sa trabaho mo. Anytime pwede kang tanggalin, anytime pwedeng [putulin] yung kontrata mo.”

“Mas higit na pinagsasamantalahan yung mga manggagawang kontraktwal kumpara dun sa mga regular,” Hicap added.

Hicap also said that inclusive economic development could only take place if there was equal distribution of wealth.


In Photo: Antonio Flores | by Beatriz Decena

“Hindi pederalismo ang solusyon sa problem ang ating bansa,” Antonio Flores, secretary-general of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas said.

Flores reiterated the sentiments of various marginalized sectors, saying that once agrarian reform is granted, it could be used as a stepping stone for national industrialization “Doon natin masasabi na uunlad ang ating bansa.”

National industrialization would ensure that the population would make the most out of the country’s natural resources by catering to the needs of goods and services of the people with local enterprises receiving government support.

SEE MULTIMEDIA REPORT HERE: Interviews about labor and migration in the Philippines

The minimum wage rate of Metro Manila had attracted Filipinos from different regions to the country’s capital. Yet it was the second region with the highest unemployment next to Region IV-A.


Table 4. Employment statistics (from Philippine Statistics Office)

President Duterte had been advocating for a federal government as early as 2014 on the grounds that it was only way to maintain peace in Mindanao and empower the neglected regions in the Philippines.

Under a federal system, power would be distributed from the national to the local levels, granting more autonomy to the regions, allowing them to develop their economies and uphold their own laws with little interference from the national government.


In Photo: Jonathan Malaya | by Beatriz Decena

“Here in Makati parang ang yaman yaman ng Pilipinas but if you go to the slums, and you  go further and further from Manila you will see that people are alienated and oppressed. That’s the result of the [unitary] system,” Jonathan Malaya, executive director of PDP-Laban Federalist Institute said.

“What’s fuelling this [administration’s] desire to go federal is the need to address undue economic development and over-centralization of powers in Metro Manila,” Malaya said.

Distribute wealth even in the rural

 According to Malaya, the concentration of infrastructures in Manila funded by taxes of people had stunted the growth of provinces. “If you look at the data practically 80% of everybody’s money is [spent] here,” Malaya said.

“We want to redistribute resources,” Malaya said. “It’s about time that we give the taxes due [to those provinces].”

Malaya said that people go to Manila because “economic activity is here,” hence they would work here even if the working conditions would require them deal with the congested traffic.

Malaya added that if people were to invest in the provinces, development would follow and people would no longer have to migrate to the capital for decent work.


In Photo: Hussein Macarambon | by Maria Katreena Saguid

The casual relationship was not linear, Macarambon said.

“Strengthening an LGU (local government unit) doesn’t automatically produce better working conditions,” Hussein Macarambon, International Labor Organization-Manila’s national project coordinator of the FAIR recruitment project said.

According to Macarambon in order to improve working conditions there should be better institutions, well-informed budget plans, comprehensive land use and development plans.

“There are so many direct consequences of improving or strengthening local government units but to assume that it’s going to immediately impact working conditions is another thing,” Macarambon said.

Macarambon added, “If you want to have some positive effects on the working condition of Filipinos in the rural areas, [then] you have to make direct interventions such as making sure that the enterprises are complying with national laws and labor standards.”


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