By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Malacañang said that President Duterte’s Cabinet may discuss Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III’s proposal to grant P200 financial assistance monthly to minimum wage earners.
According to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, he is unsure about the fate of the proposal since the proposed national budget for 2019 is most likely done by now.
“Hindi ko po alam kung anong estado niyan kasi parang tapos na iyong proposed budget for 2019 kasi sina-submit po iyan (I don’t know about that because I think the proposed budget for 2019 is already completed since that is submitted) traditionally in time for SONA [State of the Nation Address],” he said.
He, however, pointed out that the Cabinet may discuss the proposal in its last Cabinet meeting before the SONA on July 23 and see if it can be added to the proposed budget.
“So tingnan po natin kung anong mapagkakasunduan (Let’s see what can be agreed upon). We will have one final Cabinet meeting before the SONA so baka ma-discuss po iyan at baka ma-include iyan sa budget proposal ng (so this could be discussed and be included in the budget proposal of) Malacañang,” Roque said.
“Anything is possible but of course it has to be discussed and examined,” he added.
Roque, however, expressed reservations because the program may cause the government to raise taxes anew.
“Kasi, siyempre, nagtataas tayo ng buwis dahil may mga proyekto na paggagastusan pero kung magbibigay lang naman tayo ng benepisyo, ibig sabihin na naman niyan saan natin kukunin iyong ibibigay nating 200 pesos? So ibig sabihin tataas na naman iyong buwis so kailangan balansehin po (Because we impose higher taxes because we have projects to fund but if we give more benefits like this, where would we get the ₧200? This means we have to increase the taxes again. We have to balance things),” he said.
“This is an idea broached by Secretary Bello. It will have to be discussed primarily by the economic team and we will await their recommendation on the proposal,” he added.
With the rising prices of basic commodities, Bello said he will discuss giving 4.1 million minimum wage earners a subsidy of ₧200 every month with President Duterte during their Cabinet meeting this month.
Under the proposal, a monthly subsidy of P200 will be released on the first year, P300 on the following year, and P400 on the third year, amounting to P10,800 for each minimum wage worker in three years.
Bello recognized that the proposal will cost the government P9.8 billion for the first year alone. However, the Labor Secretary is optimistic that the program will still be feasible.