Aquino rejects bill increasing entry-level nurses’ pay

By Camille Elemia/rappler.com – Two weeks before stepping down, President Benigno Aquino III rejected the bill seeking to increase the pay of nurses.

Aquino said he could not support the bill in its present form because of “dire financial consequences” – both for the government and private and non-government health institutions.

For the President, the increase in nurses’ pay is already mandated by Executive Order No. 201, series of 2016.

From an annual salary of P228,924, Aquino said entry level nurses now have a “guaranteed compensation” of P344,074, excluding other benefits and allowances granted under the Magna Carta of Public Health.

Aquino added that the proposed measure that will increase the entry-level salary for nurses by 4 grades places nurses “over and above” their similarly situated counterparts in the health profession and government service.

The increase of salaries of other health and government professionals should also be considered, proportionate to the increase given to entry-level nurses.

“Such preferential treatment in favor of nurses over and above other health professionals and professionals in the government service appears unconscionable and violative of the equal protection clause enshrined in the Philippine Constitution,” Aquino said in his veto message.

“Moreover, it would eliminate the distinction created as regards the salaries of other health professionals, such as optometrists and dentists, who will, in the event the proposed bill is passed, receive salaries lower than nurses,” Aquino said in his veto message.

Aquino was also quick to point out that the measure “seemingly disregards” the financial capacity of most local government hospitals, which may not be able to comply with the proposed increase.

“The additional costs that this salary increase would entail may cause unintended repercussions, such as possible downsizing of hospital personnel and consequent increase in health care costs. This may similarly discourage continued private investments in the health care sector,” Aquino said.

‘Still a dream’

Paulita Cruz, president of the Philippine Nurses Association, said in an interview on ANC that her group has been pushing for the measure since the administration of the President’s mother, the late President Corazon Aquino.

“The salary increase of our nurses is still a dream,” said Cruz, who expressed hope that the incoming Duterte administration would favor the proposal.

Many Filipino nurses leave the country to work abroad. The latest country migration report of the International Organization for Migration showed that in 2012 alone, 15,655 out of 458,575 deployed newly-hired, land-based overseas Filipino workers are nurses. (READ: PH migration report: Number of OFWs increasing)

Meanwhile, the President also vetoed a bill seeking to remove conditions for the condonation of all unpaid income taxes of Local Water Districts (LWDs) as it is “disadvantageous and can undermine the government’s strict tax collection efforts,” Palace Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr said in a statement.

In his veto message, Aquino said the bill “sends a message to errant taxpayers that delinquency is acceptable since amnesty or condonation may be given anyway, even without benefit of proper documentation.”

The proposed measure would be contrary to the intent of Republic Act 10026, “which grants tax reprieve only to LWDs which are financially incapable and committed to instituting fiscal reforms,” said Coloma.

The latest vetoed bills adds to the total number of measures that Aquino has rejected during his watch.

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