An estimated 400,000 micro, small and medium enterprises are having difficulty in paying the mandatory 13th-month pay of their workers, the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) said.

39516

ECOP President Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr. said they informed Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre Bello III that 90 percent of businesses in the country are micro enterprises and half of that have closed their operations already since last year because they could no longer pay for the salaries of workers.

But, he said, there are over a million MSMEs that are struggling. Of this figure, he estimated that 400,000 have problems meeting the mandatory 13th month pay for their workers.

With that, ECOP made a representation again with Bello, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III and Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez for loan assistance.

This paved the way for the SB Corp. to repurpose their funds from other programs for a new loan facility specifically for the MSMEs 13th month pay of their workers.

Labor groups are even amenable to “gives” 13th-month pay scheme up to January 2022.

But, Ortiz-Luis said there is no need for “gives” payment once they can avail of the SB Corp. loan facility.

Meantime, ECOP welcomed the further easing of restrictions to Alert Level 3 in Metro Manila. “Whatever that will help business to open at higher capacity,” he said.

Ortiz-Luis said that further easing should have started in September yet because as early as August this there was already a consensus among health and the business sectors to adopt a “live with the virus” policy because no government “ayuda” could ever sustain the thousands of people who have been out of work for several months already.

He said that government just have to ensure that the healthcare system in the country will not be overwhelmed in case of surges in COVID cases.

He, however, noted that the government, especially the Department of Health does not see the urgency of increasing hospital bed capacity while nurses are protesting and doctor volunteers in government hospitals are resigning.

“Other countries like Singapore have opened up but they also raised the capacity of their healthcare system so they are prepared for any surges, but unlike us, we have no sense of urgency,” he said.