MANILA, Philippines — An activist lawmaker urged the government not to make President Rodrigo Duterte’s plan to increase the salaries of public school teachers incumbent on the passage of a new tax reform package even as Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno junked the notion as “not our priority this time.”
“As long-time advocates for decent pay, we welcome the statement coming from the Palace that President Duterte wants to increase the salaries of public school teachers,” ACT Teachers Representative Antonio Tinio said.
“However, we do object to the Palace spokesperson claiming that the hike in teachers’ salaries will depend on the passage of the administration’s second tax reform proposal,” he added, referring to a tax reform package to lower corporate income taxes that is meant to follow the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion or TRAIN act, which took effect on January.
Tinio said Duterte had set the “benchmark” when he signed the joint resolution of Congress doubling the pay of military and uniformed personnel. “Our teachers deserve nothing less. We eagerly await the formal proposal from the Department of Budget and Management,” he said.
ACT has long been batting for a hike in the teachers’ pay, which it says should be set at a minimum of P16,000.
But Diokno said an increase was not feasible at the moment notwithstanding Duterte’s sentiments and that, with two years still to go for wage hikes under the Salary Standardization Law, the best time to consider upping teachers’ pay would be at the end of 2019.
He pointed out that doubling the salaries of the country’s 600,000 public school teachers would require around half a trillion pesos.
“It is not our priority this time,” Diokno said, adding the priority at the moment is to pour funds into the administration’s “Build, Build, Build” program and to social services for the poor.
“What you don’t want to do is to see the whole budget of the country that is simply salaries for everybody. I don’t think Filipino taxpayers will want that,” he said.
Diokno also said any study on a possible wage increase for teachers should be contracted to a third party to ensure it is unbiased, pointing out that public school teachers are currently double that of tutors in private schools.