Friday, May 1, 2015

No Labor Day breakfast at Palace with Aquino

From the Website of INQUIRER

No Labor Day breakfast at Palace with Aquino

President Benigno Aquino III. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO/EDWIN BACASMASMANILA, Philippines–President Aquino is flying to Cebu province for the 113th Labor Day rites in the country on Friday, a departure from the holding of a breakfast meeting with selected members of moderate workers’ groups in MalacaƱang last year.

Asked why the President was going to Cebu, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. on Thursday said Aquino “wishes to spend time with members of the workforce not just in Metro Manila but also in other regions and provinces nationwide.”
Coloma denied claims by some of the President’s critics that he was just avoiding the usual antigovernment rallies and other May 1 mass actions.

“Not once did he evade expressions of sentiments by the people, whom he considers his bosses,” Coloma added.

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said the government dialogue with labor groups would continue even with no formal Labor Day meeting with the President.

MalacaƱang was mum if Aquino has any surprise gifts for both state workers and minimum wage earners as the nation marks Labor Day.

Instead, Coloma said “the President and his Cabinet have been doing their homework” during the past four years and 10 months.

In a text message, he pointed out “since the President assumed his post (in July 2010), the government has provided many work-related benefits to the country’s labor force.”

These include an “increase in the take-home pay due to the increased tax exemption for workers’ 13th-month pay, as well as additional livelihood opportunities,” he told the Inquirer.

Coloma, head of the Presidential Communications Operations Office, also cited the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey that found that unemployed Filipinos had dropped by 3.4 million in the first quarter of 2015.

The SWS poll showed the country’s joblessness rate falling from 27 percent, or an estimated 12.4 million adults, in December 2014 to 19.1 percent, or about 9 million adults in March this year.

This was the lowest unemployment figure during the past four-and-a-half years, according to SWS.
The survey also found that more Filipinos were optimistic about job opportunities in the next 12 months.
Coloma said that under the Aquino administration, “there has been an increase in the quality of the workplace due to the strict implementation of the country’s labor laws and standards.”

“Add to that the strong support the government has been giving to overseas Filipino workers and those in the vulnerable sectors,” he said.

Baldoz also assured workers and labor groups that their demands were being addressed by the government.
“On the issue, for example, of protecting the income of minimum wage earners, Baldoz said the President has already signed into law Republic Act No. 10653 last Feb. 12 increasing the tax exemption of 13th-month pay and other benefits to P82,000,” she said.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue has also issued Revenue Regulation No. 1-2015 expanding the list of “de minimis” (minimal) benefits to include collective bargaining agreement-derived and productivity incentives amounting to P10,000, she added.

She said the request of the labor sector for assistance to minimum wage earners through the proposed Labor Empowerment Assistance Program, in the form of rice, medicine and other basic needs subsidy, was still up for discussion with the Development Budget Coordinating Committee.

Productive dialogue

In a statement, Baldoz said productive dialogue between the government and organized labor transcended the time frame of the Labor Day commemoration.

“Members of President Aquino’s Cabinet, as instructed, continue to meet and dialogue with our workers even beyond the Labor Day commemoration, and this is a commitment that we have with them,” Baldoz said in response to questions why there was no dialogue between the President and labor leaders on May 1 just like last year.

“Some of the Labor Day dialogue issues have already been resolved, and our dialogue partners acknowledge the government responses to these issues,” she added.

Baldoz shrugged off insinuations that the President was commemorating Labor Day in Cebu to avoid the sight of workers’ marches and rallies.

“Many seem to forget that under the administration, workers have become our development partners, not the nemesis. They are very much welcome to commemorate Labor Day through their own tradition of peaceful and orderly rallies and street marches.

‘Entering the lions’ den’

“That’s guaranteed by the Constitution and our laws. The President is going to the territory of the ALU-TUCP (Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines), one of the country’s largest labor federations, so he is entering the lions’ den, so to speak,” she said.

Baldoz added that she had deployed top officials of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) nationwide to attend to workers’ concerns, observe Labor Day events and dialogue with workers.
Aquino is scheduled to attend a JobStart Employers forum at J. Center Mall in Mandaue City. He will be accompanied by Baldoz and Undersecretary Ciriaco Lagunzad III.

Also expected to attend the forum are Richard Bolt, Asian Development Bank country director, and Canadian Ambassador to the Philippines Neil Reeder.

Job fairs will also be held at the DOLE provincial office and the Abellana Sports Complex, both in Cebu City; Hoops Dome in Lapu-Lapu City and the SM malls in Cebu City and Consolacion town.
There are about 220,000 unemployed people in Cebu and other Central Visayas provinces, according to DOLE records.




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