Between its refusal to fully support tax reform initiatives in Congress and its failure to provide decent living wages, the government has not done enough to help the country’s workforce keep up with the rising costs of essential goods and services, Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero said.
Escudero pointed out that “the salaries of an estimated 1.4 million government workers remained stagnant in the last three years despite the ever-increasing cost of basic commodities.” Meanwhile, private sector employees have received minimal pay increases in the last five years.
In April, the National Wages and Productivity Commission—the key policy-making body on wages, incomes and productivity in the private sector—implemented a P15 adjustment in the daily minimum wage in Metro Manila, raising the minimum pay to P481 for workers in the non-agriculture sector.
It was the fifth wage adjustment since President Benigno Aquino III assumed office in 2010, when the minimum daily salary in the nation’s capital region was P404.
“Despite the low inflation rates, we have not seen a significant decrease in the cost of goods and services and there has been no significant increase in wages both in the public and private sectors in recent years,” Escudero pointed out.
“This is precisely the reason I support the proposal to reduce the personal income tax rate, which at 32 percent is the highest in Southeast Asia,” he said. “Hindi na nga tumataas ang sweldo ng mga ordinaryong manggagawa, masyado pa ring mataas ang binabayaran nilang buwis. Hindi naman siguro makatwiran ‘yun.”
Escudero urged the government to make up for its failure to give workers a decent wage increase by supporting moves in Congress for lower personal income tax rates, which at least would increase workers’ take-home pay.
“Since workers have not received a much-needed pay raise and are not likely to get a salary increase in the near future, I think it is high time we give them relief from paying unjust taxes,” he said.
Escudero had earlier called on Congress to tackle immediately the proposed legislation to lower income taxes after Malacañang expressed willingness to take a second look at the proposal that had united labor and business groups.
The technical working group of the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives has come up with a proposal that exempts individuals earning below P180,000 annually from paying income tax and imposes a 30-percent income tax on individuals earning more than P1.1 million a year.
The Senate is awaiting the consolidated bill from the House, which has been working on all tax reform measures. Under the law, revenue measures need to emanate from the House before the Senate could pass its own version.