Workers group slams Aquino for hiking gov’t fees

PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino has the gall to increase government fees despite cutting workers’ wages and failing to increase the budget for social services.”

This was labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno’s statement today as it condemned an administrative order by Pres. Noynoy Aquino directing government agencies to impose new fees and increase existing ones for their services, saying the fee hikes are too heavy for workers and the poor to bear.

The labor center called Administrative Order No. 31, Series of 2012, which was signed by Aquino last Oct. 1 a form of “legalized kotong.”

The directive will increase fees for people’s transactions with government agencies – from birth certificates to passport application and renewal, from PhilHealth premium to clearance from the National Bureau of Investigation.

“Does the president think that workers and the poor still have money to pay these fees? He should be reminded that he has just cut workers’ wages and subsidies for education and health,” said Elmer “Bong” Labog, KMU chairperson.

“The president is obsessed with pleasing the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, which are keeping a close watch on the government’s revenues and payment for foreign debt,” he said.

“Aquino is very insensitive to the plight of the Filipino workers and the poor. These fee increases will further fire up the public’s anger at him,” he added.

KMU said the Two-Tiered Wage System, which is already being implemented in 11 of the country’s regions, is cutting workers’ wages by replacing the current minimum wage levels with lower floor wages.

Various groups have condemned cuts in government subsidies for education and health, which result in higher tuition and other fees in schools and higher fees in public health institutions.

“We cannot accept these fee increases because the government is not giving back to workers and the poor in the form of social services what it takes from us in the form of taxes and other fees. These fee increases and Aquino’s administrative order should be junked immediately,” Labog said.

“We are calling on congressmen and senators to immediately investigate the impact of these fee hikes to Filipino workers and the poor,” he added.

The labor leader recalled that in Sept. 6, 2011, Sen. Manny Villar held a public hearing on the proposed fee hikes in government transactions in relation to Senate Resolution 568 which the senator filed.

“This government remembers the poor only when it wants to increase revenues. It does not think of reducing payments for foreign debt and subsidies to multinationals and of going after the worst tax evaders among the country’s big capitalists and landlords,” Labog said.

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