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Budget chief douses hopes public school teachers for doubled pay

‘Build, Build, Build’ program is the top priority

Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno NESTOR CORRALES / INQUIRER.net FILE PHOTO

President Rodrigo Duterte’s wish to double the pay of public school teachers may take a backseat to more pressing programs needed to be funded, such as the infrastructure rollout, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said on Wednesday.

Diokno said the government would have to shell out half a trillion pesos if plans to double the salaries of some 600,000 public school teachers pushed through.

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“That is not our priority at this time. Our priority is the ‘Build, Build, Build’ and social protection. I think we have to study that very carefully,” he said.

Under the Duterte administration’s “Build, Build, Build” program, 75 flagship projects are planned to be rolled out, with about half targeted to be finished within the President’s term.

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The Duterte administration plans to spend up to P9 trillion  on infrastructure projects until 2022 to usher in “the golden age of infrastructure.”

Exodus of teachers

Diokno noted that the salaries of teachers in public schools were already better than their counterparts in private schools, sparking an exodus of educators from the latter to the former.

Public school teachers currently receive monthly salaries ranging from P19,000 to P40,000, depending on their level. They also get allowances and bonuses.

Third tranche

Diokno also pointed out that their salaries would still go up next year under Executive Order No. 201, which was issued by then President Benigno Aquino III before he left office in 2016. Under EO 201, civilian government personnel will enjoy four tranches of salary increases until 2019.

The budget chief said the teachers’ salaries had already risen by 15 to 16 percent, following the implementation of the third tranche of the pay increase this year.

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On Tuesday, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said Mr. Duterte wanted to double public school teachers’ pay after the salaries of police personnel and soldiers had been raised.

Pay distortions

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Wednesday expressed support for Mr. Duterte’s plan to increase the pay of public school teachers, but he called for a review of the entire government salary structure to prevent pay distortions among other government professionals.

Drilon said Mr. Duterte’s directive to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to look for ways to raise the income of teachers should also cover other positions in government, including those for nurses, lawyers and other professionals.

Drilon pointed out that the doubling of the salaries of soldiers and uniformed personnel made it necessary to examine the government’s compensation structure to avoid “serious discrepancies” in the salary scheme and demoralization among civilian employees.

For example, if a rookie policeman received P40,000, an entry-level teacher, lawyer at the Department of Justice and a health worker should also be entitled to the same pay, the senator said. Currently, a Teacher 1 receives a basic salary of P21,000.

Recompute base pay

Drilon also urged the House of Representatives to adopt Senate Resolution No. 575, which the chamber approved before it adjourned last December.

The resolution asks the DBM to recompute and readjust the base pay of civilian personnel below and above Salary Grade 11 to ensure that the compensation of civilian personnel will be commensurate with that of their military and uniformed counterparts.

It also states that the new base pay rates for civilian personnel will take effect six months after the increase in the basic salary of military and uniformed personnel takes effect.

Second tax reform

Roque said the increase in teachers’ salaries would be funded through the administration’s second tax reform package.

The package, however, is expected to be revenue-neutral as the tax payments generated would be offset by foregone revenues.

Comprehensive review

A Department of Finance document last year showed that the second of five tax reform packages would mainly be based on the results of the cost-benefit analysis of investors’ tax perks under the Tax Incentives Management and Transparency Act (Timta).

A comprehensive review of the country’s tax incentives regime is mandated under the Timta law, which aims to provide an overview of the benefits and costs of giving away fiscal perks to investors.

Second tax reform package

The second tax reform package would bring down corporate income tax rate from 30 percent to 28 percent in 2019 and to 25 percent in 2021, similar to the rates in neighboring countries.

According to Diokno, the DBM plans to tap a private company to study the competitiveness of the government’s pay scheme before 2020, or at the end of the four-year salary adjustment program.

He said he would talk to the President about the matter.

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TAGS: Benjamin Diokno, DBM, infrastructure program, pay hike, Public School Teachers, Rodrigo Duterte
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