THE National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said Senate Bill 1826, the proposed Security of Tenure (SoT) Act, needs to be “tweaked” to be more balanced and consider the possible impact on investment.

In a briefing Wednesday, NEDA Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia said, “Our view is that the legislation should do something that would benefit not only the employers but also the workers.”

He added, “I think the SoT is not perfect. Also from the employee side, they said it’s not adequate.”

The SoT Bill is awaiting the signature of President Rodrigo R. Duterte and is set to lapse into law by July 27. According to Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III, Mr. Duterte is still studying the measure.

Mr. Pernia said that the SoT Bill should be balanced, considering the interests of workers as well as the potential impact on investment and jobs to be generated by businesses. “Essentially there is a need for tweaking to address some of the provisions. As I’ve said, you have to be sure that the law benefits not only workers but also investment… it has to be fair between workers and employers because if you want jobs to be available, you need investment.”

On July 17, foreign business chambers and employer groups called on the President not to sign the SoT Bill, warning that it will weaken investment if businesses are not given the option of engaging contract labor. The groups said that current laws already have provisions against labor-only contracting which are also reinforced through Department Order 178 series of 2017 issued by the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) and Executive Order 51 series of 2018 signed by the President.

The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) warned foreign chambers that they are committing a crime in calling on the President to veto the SoT Bill, because they are not registered lobbyists and cannot interfere in domestic matters.

In a statement Wednesday, TUCP President Raymond C. Mendoza said: “The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines warns foreign businessmen and their chambers that they are engaged in illegal lobby(ing) in calling for a Presidential veto of the Security of Tenure bill. They are engaged in an unwarranted interference in the purely domestic affairs of the Filipino people. They are also infringing into our sovereignty.”

He added that foreign organizations cannot lobby Congress, saying that the foreign chambers “are now skirting a thin line between legality and real crimes against the Filipino people.”

Mr. Mendoza said that the SoT Bill allows flexibility since some contracting activities such as seasonal and project-based contracting will still be legal. The bill will also ensure workers’ right to a pathway to permanent employment.

He added, “While the SoT bill does not totally end contractualization, it nonetheless provides for an easier way to… regularize workers. It also provides penalties and a fine of up to P5 million and sanctions which include closing down manpower agencies and contractors. We intend to further strengthen this through amendments in the 18th Congress by reiterating the lost provisions of the House version, which prohibits all fixed-term contracts.” — Gillian M. Cortez