DAVAO CITY -- The Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB) in Davao Region approved late Friday an increase of P21 in the minimum wage of workers in the region.

The increase will bring the wage level in Davao Region to P286.

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RTWPB-Davao Region member lawyer Bienvenido Cariaga said Saturday that after an eight-hour deliberation, from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday, the seven-man board agreed to increase by P21 the daily income of minimum wage earners in the region.

Following a series of public hearings that started in June, Cariaga said the government representatives to the board, consisting of Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) regional director as chair of the board, and National Economic Development Authority (Neda), voted in favor of the management stand for a P21 increase.

With the approved wage increase, Cariaga said the non-agricultural employees, whose present basic pay is P250 and whose cost of living allowance (Cola) is at P15, will now receive a daily minimum wage of P286.

For agriculture employees, whose current basic pay is at P240 and whose Cola is at 15, will now have a minimum wage of P276.

Under retail and services, employers with more than 10 employees will raise the minimum wage to P286 from the current basic pay of P250 plus the Cola of P15.

Still under retail and services, employers with less than 10 employees will raise the minimum wage to P225, from P219 and a Cola of P15.

Cariaga admitted the amount is below the demand of the labor sector.

Earlier, the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) in Davao Region filed before the RTWPB a petition for a P75 across-the-board daily wage increase essential for workers to cope with the increasing prices of commodities and cost of living.

Based on the five-page petition of the group, the P75 across-the-board increase is long overdue and much needed by the ordinary worker who has continuously suffered from the relentless increases in the consumer price index since June 2008.

Militant labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), on the other hand, demanded for a nationwide P125 across-the-board wage increase and urged the Aquino administration to abolish the wage boards.

KMU members earlier picketed the office of the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) in Davao Region to slam what they called the inutile public hearings of the RTWPB.

While more workers are facing gross violations of their rights -- low wages, loss of job security and the violation of their labor rights -- KMU chair Romualdo Basilio said the RTWPB again showed its true color as a lowly lapdog of capitalists.

But Cariaga, in a phone interview, said that "if they decided to a bigger wage increase, the consequence would be retrenchment of workers. The amount, P21, is what was agreed that the employer can give without having to remove people."

Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. (DCCCII) president Robert Quinto also expressed sentiments on the matter.

Quinto during the hearings was quite outspoken as representative of the management sector opposing the proposed wage increase from the labor sector. He, however, said he understands how an increase would mean to the minimum wage earners.

"Somehow personally, I'm happy that there is an increase of this much because we also understand the plight of the workers. I hope that the labor sector will understand. With their help, if the business improves because of all the factors, I will be the first to share with them the gains," Quinto said in a text message.

Meanwhile, party-list group Anakpawis slammed the RTWPB's decision as the progressive Koalisyon ng Mamamayang Makabayan (Makabayan) has long called for a P125 wage increase.

"The increase is just small if we look at the rise of the prices of commodities and the fast removal of employees so that their wages will not increase," Anakpawis-Southern Mindanao Region and KMU leader Pedro Arnado said in a phone interview.

"Also there's no job security due to contractual term because companies are more powerful than the government in the Philippines," he added.

Anakpawis spokesperson Sheena Duazo also expressed exasperation, saying "as if the price movements, transport fare, fuel/gasoline prices, prices of basic commodities and outside factors like El Nino, La Nina were not considered."

"Including education, its cost has also increased so much. When you think about it if families are not able to send their children to school then their livelihood would most likely not improve," Duazo added.

Meanwhile, Dole Regional Director Jalilo dela Torre said a press conference will be held Monday at Pinnacle Hotel in Davao City. (Jade C. Zaldivar of Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)