(File photo)

MANILA – As the call to hike the minimum salary of government workers to PHP33,000 is unlikely at least until next year, a senator added another bill to double the monthly Personnel Economic Relief Allowance (PERA).

The PERA is currently at PHP2,000, which Senator Ramon Revilla Jr. said is no longer enough, considering the continuous increase in prices of prime commodities.

Revilla has filed Senate Bill (SB) No. 1406 that seeks to realize the true intent of PERA as a form of economic relief to all government workers, subject to automatic yearly adjustments equivalent to any increase in the country's annual inflation rate.

“Unfortunately, with the worsening economic conditions brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic and the skyrocketing prices of basic commodities and gasoline, I believe the current amount at PHP2,000 is already insufficient and needs to be adjusted,” Revilla said in a statement on Monday.

Senators Francis Escudero, Jinggoy Estrada and Mark Villar earlier filed SB Nos. 60, 1027 and 1378, respectively, to also double the amount being received by about 1.8 million government employees.

PERA was first given in 1991 pursuant to Budget Circular No. 4 that granted PHP500 allowance to government employees, increased to PHP1,000 by virtue of Administrative Order No. 53 in 1993, and raised to the current PHP2,000 in January 2010.

Apart from PERA, Revilla also supports calls for a PHP33,000 monthly minimum salary.

Nararapat lamang na tingnan natin muli kung sapat pa ba ang natatanggap ng mga kawani ng ating gobyerno lalo na at tuloy-tuloy ang pagtaas ng presyo ng mga pangunahing bilihin (It is time to check again if our government workers are receiving enough especially that the price of commodities continues to increase)," Revilla said.

"Sa susunod na taon, last tranche na ng umento sa sahod nila. Kaya naman dapat natin bisitahin at rebisahin muli ito (The last tranche of their salary increase will be next year. That is why we should visit and revise it)," he added.

Revilla, who chairs the Committee on Civil Service, Government Reorganization, and Professional Regulation, said he already consulted the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

"If tax is the lifeblood of our economy, government workers are the backbone of our bureaucracy. Our government is only as strong and effective as the people who work in it,” he said.

DBM Director Gerald Janda recently said that increasing the minimum wage of government workers to PHP33,000 would not be necessary as a salary hike is scheduled by Jan. 1, 2023 under the Salary Standardization Law (SSL) 5, the last tranche of the increase implemented during the Duterte administration.

“We are recognizing the calls of different sectors for a wage hike, but we still have Republic 11466 or the SSL 5. That’s why when we enter the year 2023 and when we approve the General Appropriations Act, there will be a wage hike for all government workers,” Janda said in a radio interview.

SSL 5 will increase the minimum wage for government workers to PHP13,000 from the current PHP12,517.

The DBM said a further increase in salary for government workers must be carried out through a legislative measure. (PNA)