President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Friday signed a proclamation declaring fewer nonworking days this year supposedly to boost the economy amid a coronavirus pandemic.

Under the order, November 2 (All Souls’ Day), December 24 (Christmas Eve) and December 31 (New Year’s Eve), which had been special holidays, will be special working days.

“For the country to recover from the adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a need to encourage economic productivity by, among others, minimizing work disruption and commemorating some special holidays as special (working) days instead,” according to the order.

If an employee went to work on a special nonworking holiday, the “no work, no pay” principle applies unless there is a company policy or collective bargaining agreement granting payment on a special day, according to a 2019 labor advisory.

“The President by presidential proclamation cannot change the status of the last day of the year — as defined by a statute, Republic Act 9492 — from national special holiday into a special working day,” Terry L. Ridon, a lawyer and convenor of infrastructure think tank InfraWatchPH, said in a Facebook messenger chat on Friday night.

RA 9492 or holiday economics law signed by former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2007 sought to rationalize the celebration of national holidays in the Philippines by making most holidays “movable” to Mondays.

The law also declared certain dates as regular holidays.

For minimum wage earners in the National Capital Region, the order amounts to a pay cut on Dec. 31 of about P161, he said.

“Inclusive of the two other special working days, the pay cut amounts to about P483, equivalent to 99% of NCR’s minimum wage,” he added.

Mr. Ridon said the palace should clarify whether the amendment “was done to skirt the payment of the special holiday pay premium.”

“Only special nonworking holidays are entitled to this premium,” he said. “So the question is will employees going to work on these three special working holidays be afforded the same premium?”