Marcos hails Filipino workers on Labor Day

Helen Flores - The Philippine Star
Marcos hails Filipino workers on Labor Day
Maintenance workers clean and repair the facilities of MRT-3 on April 6, 2023.

MANILA, Philippines — President Marcos on Labor Day cited the Filipino workers’ vital contribution to the country’s growing economy, even as progressive groups staged protests calling for higher wages.

Marcos is currently in the United States for a five-day official visit.

“Our labor force is essential to the sustenance of our soaring economy…On behalf of our grateful Filipino people, I laud our workforce for their unwavering service and sacrifice in their respective fields and also for their significant contribution to the country’s development,” Marcos said in his message yesterday.

He said the administration strives to address the cares and concerns of workers as well as provide them with better opportunities so that they are capacitated to their full potential as active participants in nation-building.

“If we all unite and work together with renewed hope, vigor and enthusiasm in our respective fields, industries and endeavors, I am certain that we can usher in a more equitable and prosperous future for all,” the President said in Filipino. “Long live the Filipino workers and all the workers around the world.”

Meanwhile, in an interview en route to Washington on Sunday, Marcos said Executive Order 23 creating the Inter-Agency Committee for the Protection of the Freedom of Association and Right to Organize of Workers would help address labor issues in the country.

EO 23 was signed by Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin for the President on April 30.

The inter-agency committee will be chaired by the executive secretary and vice-chaired by the secretary of the Department of Labor and Employment.

It aims to strengthen the coordination and facilitate the resolution of labor cases in the country.

However, labor groups are unsatisfied with the newly created presidential body, saying that this does not answer their plea.

The All Philippine Trade Union has even expressed fear that the special body would set back the Marcos administration’s efforts to make the Philippines a priority destination.

For her part, Vice President Sara Duterte supported the calls for mental wellness, better wages, safer work environment and gender-responsive policies for workers as the country celebrated Labor Day yesterday.

In a video message posted on her Facebook account, Duterte paid tribute to all Filipino workers, stressing their valuable contribution to a more dynamic economy. Duterte, however, acknowledged the need for “more decent and quality jobs that are fulfilling and supportive of individual growth” of workers.

The Vice President said it is also important to push for the “emergence of a work culture that understands the evolving demands of competing responsibilities as a global workforce and as a responsible family member.”


Progressive groups yesterday called for living wages anew, as they staged several protests during Labor Day.

In a statement, militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) pushed for higher wages for workers across the country. It said that with the “severe economic crisis,” it is only right to have a higher wage.

“The non-wage benefits are not enough, which was supposedly given by the Palace to the people [on April 30th.] It is not enough to have Kadiwa stores to just emerge to help alleviate high prices of necessities,” Bayan said in Filipino.

In another statement yesterday, Anakbayan youth group urged the Filipino youth to also fight for living wages, decent and secure work and the right to unionize. It also accused Marcos of “ghosting” the workers’ demands.

The group called on Marcos to release an executive order implementing a P750 wage increase across the board.

“We hope that the government will hear our voices and work with us to address the issues that our workers are facing,” Federation of Free Workers president Sonny Matula said.

Also yesterday, more than 500 teachers and education support personnel marched in a Flores de Mayo-themed protest.

ACT Teachers chair Vladimir Quetua urged the government to grant salary increases for educators, stressing that teachers’ current salary is not enough to be a living wage.

Meanwhile, Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo said the observance of Labor Day was relatively peaceful, as rallies were done peacefully and protests were self-dispersed.

Along Mendiola, Fajardo said there were about 1,500 to 2,000 demonstrators at the height of the protest.

“The reminder of chief PNP Gen. Benjamin Acorda Jr. to our field commanders was to keep calm and have a cool head. We also asked them to have maximum tolerance and that was the policy that was upheld,” she said.

Recto Avenue in Manila was closed to traffic by 10 a.m. yesterday as around 5,000 rallyists marched to Mendiola, according to the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority. – Ed Amoroso, Mayen Jaymalin, Ghio Ong, Elizabeth Marcelo, Ralph Edwin Villanueva, Ramon Efren Lazaro

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