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 Senator Chiz Escudero has filed a bill that will raise to P4,000 from P2,000 the Personnel Economic Relief Allowance (PERA) of some 1.8-million government employees as a way of helping them cope with higher prices brought about by COVID-19 pandemic and fuel hikes.

Enrolled as Senate Bill (SB) No. 60, the measure also seeks to provide automatic yearly adjustment in equivalent to any increase of the annual inflation rate to meet the needs of state workers.

In filing the bill, Escudero noted that PERA, which was originally introduced in the early 1990s, was a "subsidy granted to all government workers as a form of assistance to help make ends meet in the face of economic crisis as well as higher prices."

"Higher gasoline prices, higher transportation fares and higher prices of basic commodities since PERA's inception have proven that PERA augments the earnings of a government worker not just as an emergency allowance, but as a major source of additional funding to be able to afford basic commodities," he said.

Under Escudero's proposal, PERA will still cover all civilian government employees both in the local and national level whether "appointive or elective, and whether occupying regular, contractual, or casual positions, whose positions are covered by Republic Act No. 6758, the 'Compensation and Position Classification Act of 1989,' as amended."

It shall also cover military and uniformed personnel, except for those who are stationed abroad that are already receiving overseas allowances.

Based on SB 60, the first year of the augmented allowance's implementation, the funds necessary for PERA of national and local government agencies shall be charged against savings estimated at P62 billion, representing unreleased appropriations and other programmed appropriations.

"Thereafter, the amount necessary shall be provided in the annual General Appropriations Act (GAA)," the bill stated.

Looking after the welfare of government employees was among the commitments the senator made during the election campaign in recognition of the government employees' role in creating a bureaucracy that is efficient and effective.

Escudero is pushing for increased PERA even as he expressed support for a plan by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to streamline and reorganize the bureaucracy meant to save some P14.8 billion in annual government expenditure.

While stating that the DBM plan is on the "right path," the Bicolano legislator has acknowledged that "it would be a difficult process."

"They just have to pour in the time to study which positions are redundant or unnecessary and to make sure that those that may be affected are given proper compensation on top of whatever benefits from the GSIS (Government Service Insurance System) in order to help them get by and start anew amidst these trying economic times," he said.

The former Sorsogon governor also pointed out that in so far as streamlining the local government units (LGUs) are concerned, the matter should be left to the provincial, city or municipal governments themselves.

"It should be totally up to them. This is part of devolution enshrined in our Constitution and the Local Government Code," he said.



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