TRADE Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said there is “no need” to defer 13th month pay this year, noting that distressed companies can borrow the needed funds to make payroll.
His remarks appear to walk back a statement attributed to him by Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III, who said Tuesday that Mr. Lopez supports a deferment of 13th month pay, instead of exempting companies affected by the pandemic from disbursing 13th month pay as required by law.
Mr. Lopez, in a Viber message Wednesday, said that the matter is being reviewed by the Labor department.
“No official discussion on deferment because companies needing funds can possibly source from loans,” he said, adding that there is “no need” to delay 13th month pay.
He added that he supports either loans or subsidies for 13th month pay in small- and medium-sized businesses.
The President’s Spokesman Herminio L. Roque said Monday the Labor department could study deferment, but he believes that this cannot be done until a new law allows for it.
Employers must release 13th month pay by Dec. 24, under Presidential Decree 851. Implementing rules of the decree allow exemptions for “distressed” companies.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon has said deferment could set a dangerous precedent. — Jenina P. Ibañez