JFC to senators: More nonworking holidays to harm PHL economy

Business groups are urging senators to stop adding more nonworking holidays on the growing list of the country’s holidays, as this could erode the competitiveness of industries and slow down the country’s growth.

In a letter to Sen. Francis G. Escudero, the Joint Foreign Chambers (JFC) of the Philippines and the country’s largest business groups said the Senate should “consider the negative consequences legislating any additional nonworking holidays.” Escudero sits as chairman of the Senate Committee on Education, Arts and Culture.

The letter was submitted to senators in light of measures filed in the upper and lower chambers declaring July 27 of every year as a special nonworking holiday to commemorate the founding anniversary of Iglesia ni Cristo; the last Monday of January as National Bible Day; and other bills proposing additional holidays.

“With the recent enactment of the law declaring December 8 every year as a nonworking holiday to commemorate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, the chamber and business groups are increasingly concerned that the high number of regular and special nonworking holidays is damaging the competitiveness of the country,” the letter read.

The business groups hit the Senate for “flip-flopping” from its earlier position to oppose all proposals for new nonworking holidays. They said it was “regrettable” senators reversed from that stance and approved the December 8 holiday.

But they commended the Senate for approving Senate Bill 1270 declaring the last Monday of January as National Bible Day as a working holiday. They added it was the “proper thing” to do, so as to not place additional burden on employers by adding another paid holiday.

“One of the fastest-growing industries in the country, business-process outsourcing estimates that every nonworking holiday costs P750 million in extra expenses on overtime. This is an industry where costs exceed India by 10 percent to 15 percent,” the letter read.

Citing figures from the labor department, the business groups said there was a total of 20 holidays in the country in 2017—12 regular, seven special nonworking and one local. Special nonworking holidays were at a high in 2015, when there was a total of 12 nonworking days.

“While we do not have data on the effect of paid holidays on other industries, we should recognize the severe impact that additional paid holidays will have on other large sectors of the economy, including manufacturing, transportation and logistics, and tourism. Further, day workers lose a day of pay on holidays when they have no work,” the letter read.

The business groups also lamented there are over 100 local nonworking holidays proclaimed each year. Accounting this into the whole set, they said most firms will have to observe at least 21 holidays annually.

In comparison with other Southeast Asian countries, the Philippines has more holidays than Vietnam with 12, Malaysia with 14 and Thailand with 17. On the other hand, Indonesia has more than the Philippines with 26 holidays.

Instead of creating more nonworking holidays, the business groups urged Malacañang and the legislature to only enact new working holidays and no more of nonworking holidays.

“The economy is growing at sustained high and more inclusive levels, foreign direct investments have reached record levels, job creation is strong and poverty is declining. At the same time, our competitors are not sleeping and [working] hard to improve the success of their companies and work forces,” the letter read.

The letter was signed by the American, Australia-New Zealand, Canadian, European, Japanese and Korean chambers. Along with the foreign groups, it was also approved by the Bankers Association of the Philippines, Information Technology and Business Process Association of the Philippines, Makati Business Club, Management Association of the Philippines, Philippine Association of Multinational Companies Regional Headquarters, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines.

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