DECEMBER 30, 2006 (STAR) By Artemio Dumlao - President Arroyo promised yesterday that government workers will get a 10 percent wage increase next year.

Mrs. Arroyo, in her New Year’s message to Filipinos that she delivered at the Mansion House here, vowed that when Congress convenes next year, she will push for a measure to increase the pay of all government workers by 10 percent starting July next year.

"We started the year 2006 with a wage increase for government workers, and as the year ends, there is hope for another increase," she said in Filipino.

The measure will specify how the government will utilize the government’s savings of P10 billion, "which they have set aside as the first installment of a merit-based, performance-driven compensation reform package for the public sector workers," according to the President.

Mrs. Arroyo, who ordered a pay increase for government workers at the start of 2006, said she would again ask Congress to cap its impressive run of legislations this year with the passage of a wage hike bill in 2007.

When the next Congress opens in July next year, she said she will face legislators to expedite the passage of the third phase of the government’s salary standardization program. This measure will close the gap between the salaries of private sector and government workers and boost the government’s productivity.

Mrs. Arroyo also vowed that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) will also push for another measure to increase the salaries of soldiers, policemen and other members of the Armed Forces.

She said she has asked Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. to submit the bills to Congress.

"These measures distill inputs from the field, best managerial practices, performance benchmarks and projected revenue streams of the government, all with the interest of the public in mind," the President said.

Mrs. Arroyo pointed out that when the government embarked on the mission to put its fiscal house in order, she extended her appeal for government workers to share the burden of the people.

"Now that we have turned the corner, it is time for their share of the social payback of economic reforms," she said.

There are more than a million government workers, policemen, soldiers, firemen and other uniformed personnel.

Earlier, Andaya said the government was eyeing up to P80 billion to fund the salary increases of its workers until 2010.

"The government employees have long been waiting for the third round of their salary increase," he said.

According to the DBM, the salary of government workers must be at par with the private sector. It noted that the disparity in salary scale between the government and private sector increases as the rank goes higher.

Andaya said the difference can be seen from salary grade 10 and up.

The government employees’ last salary increase was in 2001 when the salary scale for public sector workers was revised in January and July. — with Aurea Calica

Government targets 95% electrification of remote barangays By Paolo Romero The Philippine Star 12/30/2006

It would be literally a brighter 2007 for over 2,000 remote barangays that will finally get electricity for the first time after decades of living in the dark, Malacañang said yesterday.

National Anti-Poverty Commission chairman Domingo Panganiban in a press conference at the Palace said the government is targeting 95 percent electrification of the remote barangays in the first quarter of the year.

"The President has told us that we cannot delay this (electrification program) any further. Our target is to give electricity to 95 percent of all barangays that are still literally living in the dark," Panganiban said.

The President has already asked the National Electrification Administration to mobilize its resources to fast-track the project. Local government units and private partners will also be stepping in, he said.

He said Mindanao has the most number of barangays still not reached by electric service with 1,260 villages waiting for electricity. This is followed by Luzon with 584 barangays that need to be energized and 430 in the Visayas that are expected to be fully electrified by 2008.

Panganiban said the remaining five percent of the 2,000 barangays that will benefit from the electrification program, mostly in Mindanao, will all have electricity by 2008.

As of November this year, 36,671 barangays have been energized, Panganiban said.

The United States Agency for International Development earlier released $390,000 for the electrification of 21 communities in Mindanao under the Alliance for Mindanao Off-Grid Renewable Energy (AMORE) Program.

The AMORE program presently supplies electricity to more than 3,000 households in 227 villages in Mindanao, a majority of which have served as former strongholds of Muslim rebels, through renewable energy-powered systems.

Panganiban also announced the government is aiming to provide water to 39,675 more households covering 160 municipalities, six cities and 548 barangays nationwide.

He said the government is also expanding livelihood programs for livestock, irrigation and vegetables to increase food production while allowing poor families to undertake agribusiness.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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