Senator Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada (File photo)

MANILA – Senator Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada pressed the need to double the amount of government subsidy to state workers to augment their earnings amid the continuing rise in the cost of living, aggravated by the spike in oil prices.

“Sa pagtaas ng inflation rate o ang pagtaas ng presyo ng ilang pangkaraniwang serbisyo at produktong binibili ng mga konsyumer, hindi na makabuluhan ang halaga ng Personnel Economic Relief Allowance (PERA) na natatanggap ng mga manggagawa sa gobyerno (With the high inflation rate, the amount of PERA received by government workers is inconsequential ),” Estrada, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development, said in a news release on Sunday.

Estrada said “it is timely” to raise the PERA to PHP4,000 to cover some expenses of government workers, who usually respond to public duties, especially during times of crisis and calamity.

In his Senate Bill 1027, Estrada proposed the grant of an additional PHP2,000 in the monthly PERA of government employees and rename it as Augmented Personnel Economic Relief Allowance (APERA).

Covered in the PHP4,000 monthly APERA are military and uniformed personnel as well as civilian government employees occupying regular, contractual, or casual positions, whether appointive or elective positions.

Those stationed abroad already receiving overseas allowances shall not be entitled to APERA, the senator said.

First granted in 1990 to all government employees to cushion the impact of price increases brought about by the Gulf War, the monthly PHP500 PERA was increased to PHP2,000 in 2009 to supplement government workers’ salaries due to the rising cost of living.

“With the continued rise of prices of commodities and gasoline, the PHP2,000 Personnel Economic Relief Allowance is definitely not enough to help them tide over the financial difficulties,” Estrada said.

Aside from Estrada, Senator Chiz Escudero also filed his own Senate Bill 60, raising the PERA of some 1.8 million government employees to PHP4,000 “to cope with higher prices brought by Covid-19 pandemic and fuel hikes.”

Escudero is pushing for increased PERA even as he expressed support for a plan by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to streamline and reorganize the bureaucracy meant to save some PHP14.8 billion in annual government expenditure.

While stating that the DBM plan is on the "right path," the Bicolano legislator has acknowledged that "it would be a difficult process."

Commission on Human Rights Executive Director Jacqueline Ann de Guia earlier expressed support for the urgent passage of Escudero’s PERA bill that will also provide automatic yearly adjustment -- equivalent to any increase in the annual inflation rate. (PNA)