The government must focus on revitalizing the economy and generating employment for Filipinos for now, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said Sunday in the wake of calls for the proposed increase in the minimum daily wage of workers.
Nograles recognized that a worker’s salary is important but highlighted the need to create more job opportunities especially after many Filipinos lost their jobs during the pandemic.
Some labor groups have appealed for an increase in the minimum wage to help cope with the soaring prices of food amid the coronavirus pandemic. Any petition for wage hike in the private sector is reviewed and decided upon by the regional wage boards.
“Sa pagpapataas ng suweldo ng mga manggagawa, alam mo right now dahil nga sa kinakaharap nating pandemya, kailangan natin balansehin muna yung ating, kailangan muna natin ma-stabilize ang ating economy (On proposed salary increase of workers, you know right now because we’re facing a pandemic, we must strike a balance first. We must stabilize our economy),” Nograles said over DZBB Sunday.
“I think ang pinakaimportanteng focus dapat natin ngayon ay pataasin pa ang employment rate (I think our most important focus now is to increase the employment rate),” he said.
Nograles said the country’s unemployment rate has reached 8.7 percent in October 2020, higher than the 4.6 percent in the same month in 2019. The October unemployment rate is equivalent to 3.8 million jobless Filipinos, compared to the 2 million unemployed in 2019.
“Of course importante ang sweldo but I think dahil nga marami sa ating kababayan ang nawalan ng trabaho.. so ito ang ating dapat natin i-focus na mas marami są kababayan natin ang makakapaghanap at makakakuha at makakapagtrabaho. ‘Yan ang dapat focus natin ngayon (Of course the salary is important but I think because many of our countrymen lost their jobs, we must focus on ensuring more people will have jobs. That should be our focus today),” he said.
To address the high food prices in the market, Nograles said the government is taking steps to help stabilize the supply and prices of pork and vegetables.
The shipment of hogs from African Swine Fever (ASF)-free areas to Metro Manila and other parts of the country will be intensified to boost supply. The Department of Agriculture has also proposed a price cap on pork products, according to Nograles.
He said the government would also ensure the price and supply of chicken remain stable since such meat is considered alternative source of protein for consumers. The campaign for urban gardening in communities and schools will also be enhanced to help with the supply and accessibility of vegetables, he added.
Nograles, chair of the government’s task force on zero hunger, also affirmed the government’s resolve to reduce the country’s hunger figure to the pre-pandemic level.
A Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey, conducted last November, showed that 16 percent or around 4 million families experienced involuntary hunger or hunger due to lack of food at least once in the past three months. The hunger level was lower than 30.7 percent or around 7.6 million families recorded in September. The rate however is higher than pre-pandemic level 8.8 percent or 2.1 million in December 2019.