President okays 10% pay hike, says Senator Arroyo
Quezon City (16 January) -- PRESIDENT Macapagal-Arroyo is amenable to a 10-percent increase in the salary of government employees, including uniformed personnel, and even set aside P10.3 billion for this purpose, Senator Joker Arroyo said on Monday.
The senator said this was confirmed to him by Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya during a telephone conversation when the senator asked the budget secretary about the fund.
Andaya first revealed the availability of the fund last Saturday during the reunion of the members of the so-called "Spice Boys" of the 11th Congress, young lawmakers who played a key role in the impeachment of ousted president Joseph Estrada.
The other "Spice Boys" are Representatives Miguel Zubiri, Oscar Moreno, Robert "Ace" Barbers and Ricky Zandoval, Tourism Secretary Joseph "Ace" Durano, Presidential Chief of Staff Mike Defensor, and Alaminos City Mayor Hernani Braganza.
Arroyo, who was present at the reunion, is said to be the "godfather" of the group.
Arroyo said Andaya cited the increased collection in the Expanded Value Added Tax (EVAT) last year for the availability of the money.
"Andaya said that this, in fact, is her [President"s] idea. This was in her budget message. But we had to go slow because we weren"t sure at the time that we would have the money," Arroyo said.
With funds available, Arroyo said that he would immediately file a measure for the implementation of the Salary Standardization Law to enable state workers to collect a 10 percent salary increase, which they had been unable to avail of over the years because of budgetary constraints.
"Alternatively, it can be a plain and simple salary increase measure for so long as, either way, the government employees receive their salary increases and the uniformed services the equivalent by way of increase in allowances," the senator said.
Arroyo said the measure was prompted by three factors:
- The salary increase has been anticipated in the General Introduction of the 2007 General Appropriations Act which states: "The amount of P10.3 billion over and above this amount [proposed expenditures] will be proposed for the implementation of the salary standardization of government employees."
- The government is in a position to fund this because of better revenue collections, and the confirmation by Andaya of the availability of P10.3 billion,; and
- Savings from foreign interest payments due to the appreciation of the peso.
"What augurs well is that Malacañang and Congress cannot disagree on this," Arroyo said.
Earlier, Arroyo proposed a P10-billion repair and rehabilitation fund for the Bicol region and other typhoon-devastated areas.
The bicameral conference committee, of which he is a member, accepted the proposal and re-aligned P8 billion as a calamity fund and P2 billion as fund for repairs and construction of school buildings. (PIA) [top]