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Noy defends removal of holiday economics

MANILA, Philippines - The removal of holiday economics that his predecessor observed was not political, but rather a move of President Aquino for Filipinos to correctly observe historical commemorations and provide income to those earning a daily wage.

“I was given a set of three choices, I chose the one that didn’t disrupt our people’s ability to make a living,” Aquino said.

The President, in a chance interview with reporters at the V. Luna General Hospital in Quezon City where he visited soldiers wounded in combat, also denied insinuations that an employer group lobbied for the cancellation of the holiday economics law.

Aquino insisted he was given three options by his advisers on how to deal with the country’s many holidays.

Seven foreign chambers of commerce had issued a report earlier last week that said too many holidays were forcing many potential investors to avoid the country while raising costs for employers by tens of millions of dollars.

Filipino workers had 21 public holidays this year, compared with nine in Vietnam, 11 in Singapore and 12 in Taiwan, said the study.

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The business groups also took issue with the fickle and unpredictable nature of the holiday declarations, which they noted were sometimes made on very short notice, disrupting work schedules and increasing corporate costs.

“Holiday economics” was made into law by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo under Republic Act 9492, which moved regular and special holidays to the nearest Monday.

Under the law, employees who are required to report to work on legal holidays must be paid double, while the rest will still be paid for staying at home and producing nothing for their employers.

Aquino earlier stressed there were important holidays whose celebration should not be moved to other dates so people would not forget their significance.

He also said Filipinos tended to go off work even when it was not observing religious holidays or the death anniversaries of heroes, such as when a regular working Friday or Monday is sandwiched between a holiday and the weekend.

“Number one, we should honor those particular dates to focus on the significance of that particular holiday. In holiday economics, we celebrate the holiday but (not on) the actual date of celebration,” he said.

“The point is, number one, to pay the proper respects. Number two, this would lessen the disruption in our economy. If the holiday falls on a weekend then we should allow the workers who earn on a daily basis the opportunity to earn,” Aquino said.

President Aquino issued Proclamation 84 on Monday declaring the holidays in 2011 and removing the Arroyo administration’s practice of moving the holiday to the nearest Monday to have a long weekend.

The proclamation stated that only 16 public holidays should be observed next year, down from 21 this year.

RA 9492 had declared certain days (specific or movable) as special or regular holidays and provided that holidays, except those religious in nature, are moved to the nearest Monday unless otherwise modified by law, order or proclamation.

Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Eduardo de Mesa said it was within the President’s prerogative to move “holidays that are movable” to the nearest Monday.

“That is within his discretion,” De Mesa said.

Under Aquino’s proclamation, the following are the holidays for next year.

The regular holidays include Jan. 1 (Saturday) as New Year’s Day; Araw ng Kagitingan – April 9 (Saturday); Maundy Thursday – April 21; Good Friday – April 22; Labor Day – May 1 (Sunday) Independence Day – June 12 (Sunday);

National Heroes Day – Aug. 29 (Last Monday of August); Bonifacio Day – Nov. 30 (Wednesday);

Christmas Day – Dec. 25 (Sunday); Rizal Day – Dec. 30 (Friday).

The special non-working holidays include Ninoy Aquino Day – Aug. 21 (Sunday); All Saints’ Day – Nov. 1 (Tuesday); Last Day of the Year – Dec. 31 (Saturday).

Declared special holiday for all schools is the EDSA Revolution anniversary on Feb. 25, which falls on a Friday.

RA 9849 also provides that Eid’l Adha shall be celebrated as a national holiday.

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