Manila Bulletin

Gov’t eyes 13th-month-pay subsidy for MSE workers


Malacañang said it will look into the possibilit­y of subsidizin­g the 13thmonth pay of employees of micro and small enterprise­s (MSEs) as some companies continue to struggle due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Presidenti­al spokesman Harry Roque made the statement after Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre Bello III said Friday that the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) may need up to ₱13.7 billion to subsidize the 13th-month pay of MSE workers.

In an interview with Super Radyo DZBB, Roque said that they will talk to the Department­s of Budget and Management (DBM) and Finance (DOF) to see if the government will be able to shoulder the MSE workers' benefit.

"Aalamin ko po muna, hindi pa ako makaka-commit hanggang hindi ko pa nakakausap ang parehong DBM at Department of Finance (I will find out first. I cannot commit unless I have talked with both the DBM and DOF)," he said Saturday.

According to Roque, President Duterte was asking when workers can receive their 13th-month pay during their first full Cabinet meeting during the pandemic last Monday.

He added that Malacañang understand­s the plight of MSEs.

"Sinabi naman ni Presidente ito noong huling Cabinet meeting, ang gusto niya malaman ay kailan makakarati­ng sa taumbayan ‘yung 13thmonth pay (The President wanted to know during our last Cabinet meeting when the people can get their 13thmonth pay)," Roque said.

"Pero dahil nga po sa kondisyon ng ekonomiya, naiintindi­han naman natin na ‘yung mga small at micro ay baka mahirapan dahil talagang napakataga­l nating nag-lockdown... 'Yan po ay aalamin natin (But because of the economy, we understand that the small and micro businesses may find it hard to give the 13th-month pay because we've been in lockdown for so long... We'll

see)," he added.

Bello said Friday that there are 1.5 million workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic while data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) shows that about 5.1 million workers were affected.

Duterte has yet to approve the subsidy for MSE workers. However, if this pushes through, Bello said that medium enterprise­s will not likely qualify for the cash aid.

Bello had floated the idea of exempting or deferring the payment of 13th-month pay for "distressed" businesses but Malacañang said the giving of this benefit cannot be deferred as it is mandated by law.

Last Friday, DOLE released its guidelines on the payment of the 13th-month pay, saying it will not accept any request for exemption or deferment. It added that employers should give workers their 13th-month pay by Dec. 24 this year.

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