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Gatchalian pushes for competitive gov’t salary rates

Sherwin T. Gatchalian

AS THE Senate discussed the proposed fifth round of the Salary Standardization Law (SSL) on Tuesday, Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian stressed the need to make government workers’ salaries at par with rates in the private sector to retain talent. If approved, the new government rates would take effect January 2020. “I think we should understand where we are….We’re not only competing with the private sector in the Philippines but we’re also competing with the private sector outside the Philippines,” Mr. Gatchalian said during the hearing of the senate committee on civil service, government reorganization and professional regulation. The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has allocated P31.1 billion under the miscellaneous personal funds to finance the first tranche of the SSL. Currently, there are 1.4 million civil service workers in the Philippines. DBM Undersecretary Lloyd Christopher A. Lao said they are now finalizing a study comparing public and private sector salary rates, which will be submitted by the end of September to the Office of the President for approval. “The study is a comparative analysis between the private and public sector,” he said during the hearing. — Gillian M. Cortez

CHED to reduce scholarship beneficiaries with 2020 budget cuts

THE COMMISSION on Higher Education (CHED) on Tuesday said it will be reducing the number of beneficiaries for various scholarship and subsidy programs due to cuts in its 2020 budget allocation. CHED has a P40.8 billion allocation under the proposed 2020 national expenditure program. CHED Chairperson Prospero E. De Vera III noted during the budget hearing that there is no appropriation next year for its Tulong Dunong Program, which provides financial assistance of up to P12,000 per student per academic year. The program is covered by the Tertiary Education Subsidy (TES). “The 2019 GAA (General Appropriations Act) requires CHED to move the Tulong Dunong scholars to the TES, that means about P2 billion of new scholars will be now be paid for using the TES funding,” he said. “But there is no allocation for new Tulong Dunong scholars. So that is the biggest change in the budget,” he added. Mr. De Vera also said that the number of beneficiaries for TES will most likely be reduced after funding for the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education under Republic Act 10931 was also cut by P7.1 billion to P35.4 billion from P42.5 billion this year. The budget for the K-12 Transition program was also slashed. “This means we will not be able to get new scholars for our faculty members. I don’t know if we will be able to sustain those who are already enrolled,” he said. Subsidy for medical students in state universities and colleges, which has a P167 million funding this year, has no appropriation for 2020. Mr. De Vera did not explain why the national government decided to make these cuts. The education sector has the highest allocation in the 2020 national budget with P68.5 billion for state universities and colleges, P35.4 billion for the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education, and P31.2 billion for educational assistance and subsidies. — Vince Angelo C. Ferreras

PhilHealth says Malasakit Centers should compliment UHC

THE PHILIPPINE Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) said the Malasakit Centers, a pet project of Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” T. Go that was launched in 2018 before he ran for office, should be aligned with the Universal Health Care (UHC) Act that is set to be implemented next year. “The Malasakit centers should be complimentary to the Universal Health Care… If this will be a law,” PhilHealth Senior Vice President Israel Francis A. Pargas said during a Senate hearing Tuesday. Mr. Go passed a bill last July that will institutionalize these centers. For his part, Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III expressed “support for the spirit and rationale of Malasakit Centers which seek to make health services more responsive and accessible to the indigent poor and vulnerable patients.” To achieve this, Mr. Duque added, the centers’ management should have the capability to monitor patients to avoid an abuse of the program. — Gillian M. Cortez

Hontiveros files bill to protect interns

A MEASURE that will strengthen the accreditation process of host training establishment (HTEs) to protect interns has been filed in the Senate. Under Senate Bill No. 994, or the Interns’ Rights and Welfare bill, Senator Risa N. Hontiveros-Baraquel is proposing to strengthen schools’ vetting process for HTEs. “Internship is for students and young people to learn more about the workplace and to deepen their craft. Internship is not an excuse for employers to take advantage of cheap or free labor,” Ms. Hontiveros said in a statement, Tuesday. Among the provisions of the bill are limiting internship in government offices to not more than 300 hours or not more than six months, providing subsidy to government agencies to accept interns and encourage public service, and internship in other industries with a more technical nature should not exceed 660 hours per semester. The proposed measure also protects all interns from any form of workplace abuse and harassment. — Charmaine A. Tadalan