TACLOBAN CITY – The new wage order raising the minimum wage of low-income earners in the region above the regional poverty threshold level took effect on March 30, the first post-“Yolanda” wage adjustment after the 2013 catastrophe. Under Wage Order No. 18, the wage body raised the take-home pay of workers by integrating part of the cost-of-living allowance (Cola) into the basic wage in all sectors except the sugar industry, said Elias Cayanong, regional director of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in a statement. Under the new wage order, P15 Cola was added to the basic wage, raising it to P253 a day for non-agriculture workers, P231 for the cottage/handicraft sector, P228 for retail/service employees, and P234 for the non-sugar agriculture sector. For the sugar industry, the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB) granted an increase of P14.50 to bring the daily minimum wage to P235-P262 from the previous P221.

The P15 Cola was granted under Wage Order No. 16 issued in May 2011. All minimum wage workers will still receive the P7 Cola granted under Wage Order No. 17, which was issued in September 2012. The new order, issued after the regional board meeting on last week of February, was published in a local publication on March 15, 2014. For the non-plantation sector of the sugar industry, the P14 increase will implemented in two tranches with P7.50 upon effectivity and the remaining P7 on May 1, 2015.

“All workers in the retail and service sector employing 10 workers and below shall receive an additional P6 increase in the basic pay,” Cayanong said.
A family composed of five members needs at least P235 to survive on a daily basis. RTWPB Secretary Florencio Aguilos, Jr. said the RTWPB will finalize the nine-page implementing rules and regulations (IRR) this week and will be sent to the National Wages and Productivity Commission after the Holy Week. “Even without approved IRR, the effectivity is still March 30. We urged employers to voluntarily comply the new wage order since this new rate is our basis for assessment,” Aguilos said. Roy Bernard Fiel, sugar farm operator and former chairman of the Ormoc-Kananga Mill District Development Council Foundation, Inc. in western Leyte, said the increase is untimely.

“Everybody is on recovery mode after Yolanda. We need at least three years to recover and we are still on the second year,” Fiel said. The 8,300-hectare sugar plantation in Leyte suffered a P973 million losses when supertyphoon “Yolanda” pummeled the region in November 8, 2013. Fiel said that the annual production went down to 600,000 bags from 800,000 bags during the pre-Yolanda level. The wage board initiated a review of the minimum wage structure motu propio, or on its own initiative. No petition for a wage increase was received.