Businesses urge Senate to reconsider P150 wage hike

Four business groups on Friday, Sept. 15, called on lawmakers to reconsider the proposed wage hike, reiterating that salary increases will affect mostly informal workers and small business owners since it will lead to higher inflation which is harmful to both business and the economy.

During a pandesal forum, these four groups and their leaders banded together to air their concerns: Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) President George T. Barcelon; Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) President Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr.; Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Inc. (FFCCCII) President Dr. Cecilio K. Pedro; and Philippine Amalgamated Supermarkets Association Inc. (PAGASA) President Steven T. Cua.

They met to address the underlying concerns regarding the salary increase that is being pushed in the Senate.

They called for a "balanced" solution to the pressing economic issues that the country is facing at the moment, as they assess the impact of the passage of the legislated P150 minimum wage hike.

Specifically, they are urging the Senate to look at all sides of the situation and that an equal approach should be provided to address the concerns of the consumers and the business sector.

During the forum, they agreed that increasing the salaries would further harm the economy as inflation is still high.

To have a thriving economy, Barcelon stressed that wider job opportunities should be created -- “not only to retain jobs but to create more jobs.”

For his part, Ortiz-Luis said only 16 percent out of 50 million laborers in the country are affected by minimum wage increases. These are the formal sectors such as members of the Department of Labor and Employment, Pag-IBIG Fund, and the Social Security System. While the informal sector – including farmers, fishermen, tricycle and jeepney drivers, and market vendors – comprise the bulk at 84 percent.

With this, he pointed out that the salary increase will greatly affect those informal workers and small business owners, and will also lead to higher costs of commodities.

Meanwhile, the business leaders again expressed their disagreement regarding Executive Order No. 39 which capped the price of two rice variants last Sept. 5.

Ortiz-Luis said that other retailers are losing profits based on his inspections.

Further, PCCI, FFCCCII, and ECOP said they support the lowering of the rice tariff as proposed by Department of Finance Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno, but only if its implementation is "temporary".

“There can be a start-up solution to help the farmers and to help the consumers. There should be a balance in that,” said Barcelon.

He suggested three areas that should be addressed by the government in lessening the gaps in the economy. He said that the government should consider the cost of energy, the ease of doing business, as well as the logistics cost.

Last March, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri filed Senate Bill No. 2002, or the Across-the-Board Wage Increase Act of 2023, which aims to increase private sector wages nationwide by P150.

Recently, the Senate announced that this bill is set to be passed by December this year. (Ma. Joselie C. Garcia)