MANILA, Philippines — Good news to government employees—President Rodrigo Duterte’s push to further raise their salaries under a fifth round of the Salary Standardization Law (SSL) would be implemented sooner than later given ample government resources to finance its workers’ higher pay.
“We normally wait three to four years before moving to SSL 5. However, the President decided to propose the SSL. We have done the numbers… and we can afford it,” Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said in an interview at the Department of Finance (DOF) building Tuesday evening.ADVERTISEMENT
Dominguez said Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Officer-in-Charge Janet B. Abuel had already come up with the initial estimate on the cost to again jack up the salaries of government personnel, and it was “well-within” what the government can afford, without saying the exact figure.
The proposed SSL 5 was already filed as a bill in the 18th Congress, Dominguez said, unlike the fourth SSL which was implemented under Executive Order (EO) No. 201 issued by former President Benigno Aquino III in 2016
The previous administration had lacked time to enact the salary adjustments into law as the measure came too close to the national elections in 2016.
But Dominguez noted that a law cannot be reversed, unlike an EO.
According to Dominguez, they have yet to determine if the proposed SSL 5 can already be implemented next year.
The fourth tranche of salary hikes under SSL 4 was implemented this year, although later than usual due to the delayed passage of the P3.7-trillion 2019 national budget.
Former DBM secretary and now Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Benjamin E. Diokno earlier said the fourth round of salary increases cannot be implemented under reenacted 2018 appropriations.
But in March, Abuel issued Circular Letter (CL) No. 2019-7A, which identified the source of funds from the reenacted budget to cover personnel expenses in the second quarter while this year’s appropriations remain unapproved at that time.
As for the President’s proposal to create three new departments—a Department of Disaster Resilience, Department of Overseas Filipinos, and Department of Water Resources—as well as the Water Regulatory Commission, Dominguez said: “We fully support the initiatives of the President to improve services to the OFWs [overseas Filipino workers], to properly manage our water resources and to prepare for natural disasters.”
While he does not know the exact cost to establish these three departments yet, Dominguez said it would likely be “not very high… maybe 10-percent more” than the costs to maintain existing related agencies.
Dominguez noted that the “new” departments would just come from existing agencies whose “focus and leadership” will be expanded.
In the case of OFWs, there already exist the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) and the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA); for water, the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) and the National Water Resources Board (NWRB); and for disaster resilience, the Office of Civil Defense (OCD), Dominguez pointed out.
“The bulk [of the organizations] are already existing. You just reorganize them and call them something else,” Dominguez added.