MANILA, May 4, 2008 (STAR) The National Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC) is working overtime to speed up deliberation on wage hike petitions across the country.

Ciriaco Lagunzad III, NWPC executive director said during the weekly Kapihan Sa Sulo Hotel that they are working day and night on wage hike petitions contrary to allegations of some sectors that the wage boards are moving slowly in coming up with a decision on the matter.

Yesterday, national wage boards discussed the declaration of supervening condition in their regions, which means that there is an extraordinary increase in the price of petroleum products and commodities such as rice and flour.

Lagunzad said the National Capital Region wage board would be having its first formal public hearing on May 13, adding that they have met with the labor sector last May 1 and consulted with employers last May 2. – Perseus Echeminada, Karla Verzonilla

“Given the set hearings and meetings, the NCR wage board would most probably make a decision the day after the public hearing. So theoretically, if there is to be a decision on May 14, it would be published on May 15 and the order would probably be effective by the end of the month,” he said.

Lagunzad assured the public that wage increases would not result to unemployment because the increases are meant for a much-segmented part of the labor force, the minimum wage earners.

“Even if the increase was to run across the board, it will not affect employment according to our studies,” said Lagunzad.

Last Thursday, President Arroyo signed an executive order which provides for a 10 percent salary increase for government employees.

GMA pressures BOC to curb smuggling By Marvin Sy Sunday, May 4, 2008

President Arroyo continues to put pressure on the Bureau of Customs and its chairman, Napoleon Morales, to curb smuggling by paying another visit to the BOC office in Manila last Friday.

It was the third time that the President visited the BOC’s office to personally check on the cases filed against smugglers.

Morales reported to the President that cases have been filed against the chief executive officer, directors and treasurer of Rubills International Corp., which allegedly smuggled millions worth of flour and sugar.

The Rubills case was the one that caught the ire of the President during her initial visit to the BOC last month when she was supposed to inspect smuggled flour imported by Rubills. Instead of inspecting the smuggled flour, the President directed Morales and his men to file charges against the importer.

A few days later, the President returned to the BOC to check on the status of the case and did not leave until she saw the actual complaint against the importer.

In her third visit to the BOC, Morales said that apart from the case against Rubills, they have also filed two other cases involving the illegal importation of luxury vehicles.

Morales said the cases involve an estimated P3.5 million in unpaid duties and falsification of public documents.

Mrs. Arroyo’s regular visits at the BOC have prompted speculations that she was unhappy with Morales’ performance.

Both Morales and his immediate boss, Finance Secretary Margarito Teves, downplayed such talk and said they see the President as being a hands-on type of leader who “wants to see to it that she monitors the prosecution and not just the filing” of cases against reported smugglers.

Morales also said in jest that the fact that he was given so many things to do by the President meant that she still had confidence in him.

Teves said the President just wants to see how the cases are moving.

“It’s important to show that there is a clear signal on the part of government that we are serious in fighting smuggling because it has adversely affected the revenue of Customs,” he added, but refused to comment on the possibility of Morales being replaced at the BOC.

Mrs. Arroyo, after her visit to the BOC, proceeded to the Hotel Intercontinental in Makati City for an event of the Federation of Philippine Industries (FPI) and the Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

The President noted that the BOC is in the process of reorganizing its accreditation committee and the FPI would be part of the committee.

She asked the FPI “to make sure that the private sector does not seek ‘slight favors’ from your working friends in the Customs. That should be one of the responsibilities of FPI, that kind of culture in the business community.”

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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