Palace cool to wage increase amid price hikes

By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 17 2014 04:23 PM | Updated as of Jun 18 2014 12:23 AM

MANILA, Philippines – Consumers reeling from the rising prices of commodities may not be able to hope for any wage hike anytime soon.

Malacanang keeps its distance from calls for a wage hike amid rising prices of commodities.

Communication Secretary Sonny Coloma was evasive when asked if the increase in prices would be a justification for any increase in wages.

“Ayon po sa batas, mayroong umiiral na proseso sa pagturing at pag-aaral kung magiging makatwiran ang pagtataas ng sweldo, at ang ating proseso dito ay ‘yung pagkakaroon ng regional wage boards na isinasaalang-alang ang iba’t ibang kondisyong umiiral sa iba’t ibang bahagi ng ating bansa. Kaya hintayin po natin na umiral itong proseso ng regional wage boards. Tinututukan naman po ‘yan ng ating mga awtoridad. Sa kahuli-hulihan, ‘yung hinggil naman sa pagkakaroon ng pagbabago sa pasahod, ito ay responsibilidad ng mga regional wage boards,” he said.

Coloma added that any wage hike will have to be premised on many variables, aside from the price increases.

“Mayroon nga pong tinututukan na mga variables ang ating regional wage boards at mayroon ding tinututukan ang ating mga economic agencies katulad ng Bangko Sentral, NEDA, Department of Finance, and Department of Trade and Industry,” said Coloma.

“Kasi nga iyon din namang pagtataas ng sweldo, ano, kailangan pong tiyakin na ito ay nasa tamang proportion lamang o iyong antas--iyong general level of wages will be proportionate to the need,” he added.

Coloma also said government has to find out if employers can afford a wage hike.

“Ang tinatakda lang naman kasi ay iyong mga minimum wages. Iyon namang mas mataas doon ay subject to market forces at sa mga--at sa kakayahan na rin ng mga employers na magbigay ng sweldo,” he said.

Coloma doesn’t think there will be any social unrest as prices go up and wages stay the same.

“That is not our assessment of the situation. Our assessment of the situation is that we need to address the supply situation most importantly because stable supply is the best deterrent to artificial shortages and unusual spike in prices,” he said.

Coloma announced that surveillance is being carried out to discourage any possible hoarding and other practices that could lead to artificial shortage.

“Rolling stores have been deployed to sell these commodities. The National Price Council, led by DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) Secretary (Gregory) Domingo, is closely monitoring price movements. While presently there are no suggested retail prices (SRPs) for these commodities, the Council may prescribe indicative prices, if needed,” he said.

Rice self-sufficiency


Coloma concedes that government missed its own target to be rice self-sufficient in 2013.

“’Yan ay pinagtutuunan ng pansin ng ating National Food Authority at ng Department of Agriculture. Sa mga nakaraang talakayan natin, nasabi natin na hindi natamo nang ganap ‘yung rice sufficiency objectives. Pero ‘yung level of attainment ay mataas naman dahil lampas sa 90 percent,” said Coloma.

Coloma was evasive when asked if government can achieve rice self-sufficiency this year.

“Ang alam ko po dahil tinalakay ito ng Gabinete sa pagtalakay ng kabuuan ng pambansang budget for 2014, ang pokus po ng ating Department of Agriculture ay para pataasin ang productivity ng buong agricultural sector dahil nga ito ang kinabibilangan ng pinakamalaking bahagi ng ating populasyon,” he said.

Coloma said government set many targets for itself in the agricultural sector.

“Mayroon pang ibang mga palatuntunan para pataasin ang produksyon ng mga high-yielding and high-value crops katulad po ng panukala na sa mga niyugan na bumubuo rin ng malaking bahagi ng ating pagsasaka ay magpatupad ng mga inter-cropping strategies dahil kung aasa lamang niyog ang ating mga magsasaka, napakaliit ng kanilang kinikita, ano, 20,000 per hectare sa bawat harvest,” he said.

For now, Malacanang cannot yet say what is the reason for the increase in prices.

Coloma was also asked about reports that NFA rice may only be bought at certain times of the day and certain locations. Coloma, however, directed this concern to the presidential assistant of food security and agricultural modernization Kiko Pangilinan.

“Aalamin natin kung naberipika nila ito, kung saang mga lugar, kung totoong nagaganap sa mga lugar para naman malapatan ng karampatang aksyon at pigilin ang mga nabanggit mong kaganapan. Dahil nga ang layunin natin ay lumikha ng stable supply at pigilin ‘yung mga nagsasamantala, ‘yung mga lumilikha ng artificial shortage, ‘yan ang focus ng ating atensyon. Kaya’t kung mayroong partikular na impormasyon, katulad ng mga nabanggit mo, ipararating natin ‘yan kay Secretary Pangilinan at sa iba pang mga awtoridad para gumawa ng karampatang aksyon,” he said.

Coloma added though that the DTI is already looking at making suggested retail prices of commodities. Currently, government only has SRPs for manufactured goods.