Issue of July 8, 2018
     
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Localized brain drain dreaded with CAR’s ‘low’ wage rates
by Rimaliza A. Opina

One of the biggest producers of human capital, courtesy of the presence of colleges and universities in the country, might slowly lose its human resources if wages in the region remain to be lower than its neighboring provinces. 

In the last leg of consultations about the proposal to increase wages in the Cordillera, held in Baguio City, representatives of the Regional Tripartite and Wages Productivity Board and the employers’ sector confirmed that many employees, particularly those working in service-oriented establishments have been transferring to the nearby cities of San Fernando in La Union, Urdaneta and Dagupan in Pangasinan; and Tuguegarao in Cagayan Valley.

RTWPB secretariat head Augusto Aquillo and employers sector representative Johnny dela Cruz separately confirmed that the lower cost of living in said areas have made the current manpower, based mostly in Baguio City; La Trinidad, Benguet; and Tabuk City, Kalinga, relocate.

Also, the minimum wages in the Cordillera is not as competent as the neighboring cities, Aquillo and Dela Cruz said, reporting the collective sentiment gathered by the RTWPB in the series of consultations regarding the proposal to increase the minimum wage in the region.

The RTWPB convened on June 6 and began consultations in the provinces to gather inputs from affected sectors.

The common sentiments gathered were the need to increase wages, and for wage rates to be the same as the rates in the National Capital Region.

They said the prices of commodities and the cost of living, regardless of where an employee resides, are the same or even higher in the provinces, hence, salaries or wages elsewhere in the Philippines should all be the same.

The RTWPB explained that wages in neighboring cities are higher by only a few pesos, but this was because wage boards in these areas granted wage adjustments earlier than the Cordillera.

“Mas mataas lang sila nang kaunti dahil nauna silang nag-issue ng wage order, pero papantay din o mas mataas pa rin ang Cordillera after we issue a wage order,” Aquillo said, echoing earlier pronouncements by members of the RTWPB that there would definitely be an increase.

He said the only matters that would be deliberated now by the board are how much the increase will be, and if this will be added to the basic pay or to the cost of living allowance.

Dela Cruz said employers are aware of the needs of workers but there are various factors they consider before they decide how much will be added to the present rates.

Among the factors they are considering are the needs of employees, capacity of employers to pay, economic situation in the region, and wage rates in other regions.

Dela Cruz said that while prices of commodities may be the same or even higher in the region, this is not the only factor to be considered when they decide how much the new wage rates will be in the Cordillera.

He said this is the reason why the RTWPB have come up with classifications to adjust to what employers could also provide.

The average wages in the Cordillera is between P275 to P300 per day depending on the location, type of industry, and number of employees.

“In the National Capital Region there are more businesses and industries which allow employers to recover overhead costs in the conduct of their business. Compare that to Cordillera where businesses are mostly micro and medium enterprises,” Dela Cruz explained.

He said the local chamber of commerce, where he is also an officer, also met with the officials of the local governments of Baguio and La Trinidad to discuss how to regulate the cost of housing in both localities.

Dela Cruz said the common complaints they have been receiving are the high cost of house rent in Baguio and La Trinidad and recently, the increase of fare for public transportation. He said no matter how high the wages, if the cost of living is high, this definitely would cost a dent on the budget on a minimum wage worker.

He said the officials in both LGUs were non-committal for the costs of rent are not regulated. He said the only thing they have assured is to come up with policies that would improve the amenities in houses for rent.

Dela Cruz also appealed to employers who could afford to give more than the prescribed wages to increase the pay of their workers, and to also consider giving productivity-based incentives.

The RTWPB has 45 days to deliberate before issuing a decision relative to the proposal for a wage hike in the Cordillera.


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