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Subsidies eyed for minimum wage earners

MANILA, Philippines —  The House committee on labor and employment is eyeing government subsidies for minimum wage earners, if only to offset inflation and its negative impact on their living conditions.

Panel chairman Rep. Fidel Nograles (Rizal, fourth district), however, wants to be sure if the government can afford to provide wage subsidies in light of pending bills in Congress – such as the one in the House, which seeks to provide a wage hike ranging from P150 to P750.

“A number of sectors have raised the possibility of the government subsidizing the proposed wage increase during the hearing. I think this is a sound idea, but we also have to ask our economic managers whether the government can also cover the cost of such subsidies,” Nograles said.

“Can the government afford wage subsidies?” he asked after various sectors threw their support behind the provision of wage subsidies so that companies could fund a minimum wage increase, in light of the Senate-approved P100 legislated wage hike.

The proposal to increase minimum wages has elicited mixed proposals –workers’ groups say the wage increase could help them cope with high cost of living, while employers claim they would be hard put and warn of layoffs and company shutdowns.

Nograles said he would direct his committee to ask for the government’s input regarding a wage subsidy. “Besides the wage subsidy, we will also continue to find measures that could help us come up with a win-win situation for all involved.”

Last week, Majority Leader Manuel Jose Dalipe said the House, under the leadership of Speaker Martin Romualdez, is studying proposals for a P150 to P350 per day legislated wage increase.

He said the House recognizes the dire situation of Filipino workers who are grappling with the adverse effects of inflation and decreased purchasing power due to global fiscal crisis and conflicts.

“Our workers are enduring tough times, and as their representatives, it is imperative that we find substantial solutions to alleviate their financial burdens,” the Zamboanga City congressman pointed out.

Dalipe said the Speaker has tasked the House leadership to identify effective methods to enhance workers’ take-home