Palace hopes new round of pay hike motivates state workers

Robie de Guzman   •   January 9, 2020   •   178

A Filipino elementary student holds on to a teacher during the first day of classes for the new school year at the Corazon C. Aquino Elementary School in Quezon City, Philippines 04 June 2018. EPA-EFE/ROLEX DELA PENA

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang on Thursday expressed hope that government workers would work harder following the signing of the Salary Standardization Law of 2019.

In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo confirmed that President Rodrigo Duterte has signed into law a measure granting wage increase for government employees, in four tranches, effective Fiscal Year 2020 to 2023.

In photos released by Malacañang, Duterte was shown signing the Republic Act 11466 on Wednesday, January 8 at the Palace. A copy of the signed law has yet to be made public.

Panelo said the new compensation scheme is competitive with those of the private sector to attract or maintain talented human resources.  

“The Palace hopes that this latest round of salary adjustment will motivate everyone in the public sector to work doubly hard and put more dedicated and competent service in their respective jobs,” he said.

Under the new law, basic salaries of government employees will increase by a weighted average of 23.24 percent by 2023.

The largest increases range from 20 to 30 percent for workers under Salary grades 10 to 15, while an eight percent raise will be given to those under Salary Grades 23 to 33.

The program will cover around 1.4 million state workers, including public school teachers and nurses.

“This recently enacted measure will rationalize the compensation of all civilian personnel, including those in the Legislative and Judicial Branches of the Government, as well as of Local Government Units under certain conditions, for the purpose of creating an atmosphere which would further promote excellence in the service,” Panelo said.

He added that the measure provides for a performance-based incentive scheme to reward outstanding public servants.

“The Office of the President notes that the law is at the initiative – and has the strong support – of PRRD (President Rodrigo Roa Duterte) pursuant to his desire to upgrade the standard of living of government employees,” he said.

“The law is aimed at benefitting those hardworking men and women in the government, including our teachers and nurses who unfortunately have been neglected in the past,” he added. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

PH now working on terminating PH-US VFA, says Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   January 24, 2020

Philippine Marines rush to shore during an amphibious landing exercise with United States counterparts on a beach on the coast of the Naval Education and Training Command in Zambales Province, northwest of Manila, Philippines, 09 May 2018. The Philippines-US Balikatan (Shoulder to Shoulder) Military Exercise is on its 34th iteration, which is aimed to enhance interoperability between security forces of the two countries. EPA-EFE/ROLEX DELA PENA

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang confirmed Friday that the Philippines has started the process of terminating the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States, a day after President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to end the deal if it does not reverse the cancellation of Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa’s visa.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the president issued the termination order Thursday night despite giving a month for the US to restore the senator’s visa.

Panelo said the order has already been relayed to Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. as well as Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez.

“I just talked with Secretary Teddy Boy Locsin, and he said that he will start with the process and he called up already the vice chair and they talked, and Ambassador Romualdez has already been informed, I was also talking to him earlier,” he said.

In a tweet on Friday, Locsin confirmed he and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana have taken the first step in ending the 1998 deal with the US government.

Locsin sits as the chairperson of the Commission on Visiting Forces while Lorenzana serves as vice chairman.

“Del Lorenzana and I- as Vice and Chair of USVFA – are starting the process of terminating it by first contacting the Senate because it is a treaty on our side, an executive agreement on the US side. I’m leaving for Washington on a totally unrelated matter,” he wrote on his Twitter account.

Lorenzana, for his part, refrained from commenting into Duterte’s latest pronouncement.

“Will study it first,” he said in a message to reporters. “No comment muna. Too soon to comment.”

The VFA is a bilateral accord between Washington and Manila that came into force in 1999. It outlines the guidelines about the treatment of their troops when visiting the US or the Philippines. It includes provisions on visa and passport policies for US troops and the American government’s right to retain jurisdiction over its personnel, among others.

The deal may be terminated by either of the two countries by writing to the other party signifying their intent to end the agreement. Its expiration will come 180 days from the date of notification. – RRD (with details from Correspondents Rosalie Coz & Lea Ylagan)

Duterte turns down Trump invite to attend US-ASEAN meet

Robie de Guzman   •   January 24, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte said he has decided to reject the invitation of United States President Donald Trump to attend the US-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit to be held in Las Vegas this March.

Duterte announced his decision during an interview with Russian International Television Network RT.

“I just received an invitation to go to the United States together with the ASEAN leaders. I haven’t been to the States. I was invited by [former US President Barack] Obama a while back. But I did not go,” he said in a video posted on Thursday.

When asked if he will attend the upcoming summit between the US and ASEAN, Duterte replied with: “No, no.”

During the interview, the president recalled the time when Obama criticized him and his campaign against illegal drugs.

“One time when I was being criticized by Obama in a press conference, he should have realized that I’m also the head of a sovereign state. He should have criticized me in the proper venue,” he said, referring to a September 2016 press conference where Obama urged Duterte to conduct his campaign “the right way.”

The president said Obama’s move to castigate him in a press briefing got him “so mad” and prompted him to curse the former president.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo earlier said that the chief executive is “still pondering” on whether he would accept Trump’s invitation as he is mindful of the possibility of getting barred from entering the US since he doesn’t have a visa, and making some American senators “unhappy” seeing him there. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

Duterte can scrap PH-US Visiting Forces Agreement without Senate approval – Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   January 24, 2020

President Rodrigo Duterte

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte can terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States (US) even without the concurrence of the Senate, Malacañang said on Friday.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo issued the statement after the president threatened to scrap the VFA if the US government does not reverse the cancellation of Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa’s visa.

“Because it (VFA) is an executive agreement so he can cancel it without the approval of the Senate,” Panelo said.

Dela Rosa on Wednesday confirmed to media that he is not allowed to travel to the US for now after he received notification about his visa cancellation.

The senator said the exact reason on why his US visa was cancelled remains unclear but he heard reports it might be linked to the Duterte administration’s war on drugs that he spearheaded when he was the chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP) from 2016 to 2018.

The VFA, signed by Manila and Washington in 1998, is a bilateral deal which outlines the guidelines for the conduct of government troops when they are visiting the US or the Philippines.

Panelo said the US government should not intervene with the Philippines’ internal issues.

The Palace official also believes the president’s threat to cancel the VFA will not affect Filipino workers in the US. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

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