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By John Victor D. Ordoñez, Reporter

THE Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) on Wednesday said it was too early for trade unions to ask for a daily minimum wage increase in Metro Manila, adding that inflation and oil prices would probably taper off starting next year.

“What is important right now is to sustain their workers’ jobs and create more opportunities to boost jobs,” PCCI President George T. Barcelon said by telephone. Regional tripartite wage boards would likely address worker pay next year, he added.

In June, the Metro Manila Wage Board issued a P33 minimum wage hike. Wage boards can only act on wage petitions a year after a region’s last wage order.

The Kapatiran ng mga Unyon at Samahang Manggagawa trade union filed a petition on Monday seeking a P100 increase in the daily minimum wage in the National Capital Region.

Minimum wage earners who work five days a week earn P11,400 monthly, which is lower than average monthly expenses of P15,666, it said, citing 2018 government data.

“The average inflation rate in the Philippines during that time was 5.2% for the entire 12 months, which was surpassed [in the first 10 months of] 2022, averaging 5.4%,” it said in a statement. Rising prices make it difficult to live on a daily minimum wage of P570, it added.

On Tuesday, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said inflation quickened to a 14-year high of 8% in November. This was faster than 7.7% in October and the median estimate of 7.8% in a BusinessWorld poll of economists last week.

Mr. Barcelon said the government should focus on strengthening ties with micro, small and medium enterprises to help increase jobs in the country.

Labor Secretary Bienvenido E. Laguesma earlier said his department would focus on helping the sector to improve the quality of jobs.

Job quality improved in October as the underemployment rate, or Filipinos looking for more work, eased to 14.2% from 15.4% in September, PSA said on Wednesday.

The Philippine jobless rate dropped to 4.5% in October, the lowest since October 2019 before the pandemic hit the country and the world. Last week, the International Labour Organization (ILO) said inflation continues to cut the purchasing power of low-paid workers.

In the first half, global wages fell in real terms for the first time in the 21st century, it said.

Mr. Barcelon welcomed the President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr.’s vow to bolster the manufacturing sector to boost job creation.

Mr. Marcos told a forum on Tuesday developing the manufacturing sector and local markets would help expand economic output.

The ILO has said the Philippines has the potential to boost jobs in manufacturing while it recovers from the pandemic.

The manufacturing sector posted lower employment numbers in October, with 3.667 million workers from 4.45 million a month earlier.

“Developing the manufacturing sector could be crucial in a big way if we are able to attract foreign investors since marginalized operators have not fully recovered from the pandemic,” Mr. Barcelon said.