FINANCE Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said the government will proceed immediately with the fifth round of adjustments to public servants’ salaries under the Salary Standardization Law, adding that the Department of Finance (DoF) will file legislation soon instead of observing the usual interval between adjustments.

“Normally, we would have waited three or four years before moving up to SSL 5 (Salary Standardization Law round 5). However… President [Rodrigo R. Duterte] has decided (to) propose SSL 5 and that will be legislated,” Mr. Dominguez told reporters Tuesday at the DoF.

He said that the DoF and Officer-in-Charge Janet B. Abuel of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) have come up with initial estimates and described the salary adjustments as “affordable.”

“We are down the very last numbers as will be proposed for the legislation and we can afford it. And that’s over three years… The initial estimates that we made together with Secretary Abuel were that well within our affordable range,” he said.

He did not provide an estimate for the expected cost of SSL 5.

Mr. Dominguez believes SSL 5 is best pursued via Congress rather than executive order. SSL 4 was authorized under Executive Order (EO) No. 201 issued by Former President Benigno .C. Aquino III in 2016.

“[When the bill is passed] depends on the legislation. It has been filed, I believe, [but] I’m not sure. But I heard it was going to be filed very quickly,” he added.

Earlier this year, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Benjamin E. Diokno announced that the latest tranche of the salary adjustments was scheduled for early this year but was delayed by the Budget impasse in Congress.

Despite the delay, President Duterte signed EO no. 76, amending EO no. 201, on March 15 for the last tranche of SSL 4. The issued EO no. 76 authorized funding for the fourth tranche of the salary hike for government workers to be funded by any available appropriations from the reenacted 2018 budget.

On the bills proposing the creation of dedicated departments for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW), fisheries, and disaster response, Mr. Dominguez said that such moves will quire many existing agencies to be re-organized and integrated.

“You just re-organize (the agencies) and call (them) something else. But I have to wait for the legislation because they have to be the one (to decide) which will go together… but most likely they will just start with what’s already existing,” Mr. Dominguez said.

He also said that the main cost expected for the new departments will involve upgrading current offices, a cost which he described as not “very high.”

The President at his State of the Nation Address Monday called for the creation of the Department of Overseas Filipino Workers and Foreign Employment, the Department of Water Resources and the Department of Disaster Resilience. — Beatrice M. Laforga