Baguio City – Will there be a new wage increase for our private sector workers in the Cordillera? This seems to be one of the most talk-about issues by media outfits (the Midland Courier included) so that now our people are very much aware of it and are now waiting for further developments. This is now the situation after the Cordillera Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB) has completed going around the region to consult and discuss with our people, employers and workers’ groups in particular, the issue on new wage increase.

Documented output of these engagements with the people in our region seems encouraging. It shows that not only the workers are in favor of increasing the wages but also the employers. They only differ as to the amount of increase per day with the employers recommending modest amount and the workers a substantial one. These results were determined after the participants were divided into two groups with the workers forming one group and the employers the other one.

Both were given the same questions to answer: Is there a need to increase the existing minimum wage rates of workers at this time? If your answer is no, kindly state your reasons; If your answer is yes, kindly state your recommended amount of increase per day and your reason.

They presented and explained the results to the assembly. Again, both groups are amenable to a wage increase, but differ as to the amount of increase per day. The workers’ group in Abra recommended P100, P50 in Kalinga and Apayao, P195 in Ifugao and Mountain Province, and P50 in Baguio City and Benguet. The employers’ side, on the other hand, recommended P15 in Abra, P10 in Kalinga and Apayao, P87 in Ifugao and Mountain Province and P15 in Baguio City and Benguet.

Before the workers and employers were grouped to answer the prepared questions, and for them to at least have a basis for their answers, the National Economic Development Authority-CAR discussed the economic situation of the region, focusing on its growth regional domestic product (GRDP), regional employment, labor productivity, inflation rate and the Regional Strategic Framework 2017-2022 toward attaining Ambisyon Natin 2040, the goal of the current administration.

The Department of Trade and Industry-Cordillera through its provincial offices, presented some topics centered on the movement of prices of basic necessities and prime commodities on a provincial-wide situation, the result of which shows some differences in the prices of the same products in the different provinces and cities of the region.

In the same gatherings, DOLE-Cordillera Director Exequiel Guzman, the chairperson of RTWPB-CAR, emphasized that results of public consultations and hearing being conducted are important matters, which shall form part of the various data and documents to be considered by RTWPB once it starts its wage deliberations. He also informed the public that in the event that there shall be a wage increase, it shall be for the minimum wage earners only and not across the board, meaning even those receiving above the minimum are entitled. This is the limitation provided by law and affirmed by the Supreme Court.

He added these activities, done to determine if there shall be a wage increase, have resulted from the initiative of the RTWPB since interested parties seeking for any wage increase have filed no petitions.

Finally, he assured that in the event a new wage order shall be issued increasing the wages of workers in the Cordillera, the new wage order shall be a product of deliberations balancing the interest of both workers and employers and issued based on the procedural requirements of Republic Act 6727 or the Wage Rationalization Act and the Guidelines of Wage Fixing.

The RTWPB is a tripartite body comprising of members from the labor sector, employers’ sector, and the government. Current members of RTWPB-CAR are Engr. Renerio Lardizabal and Atty. Milton Balagtey from the labor sector and Engr. Alfonso Lao and Johnny dela Cruz from the employers’ sector.

Representing the government are regional directors Myrna Pablo of DTI and Milagros Rimando of NEDA, both as vice chairpersons; and Guzman as the chairperson and the secretariat headed by yours truly.

END/ Augusto Aquillo, RTWPB-CAR Board Secretary