Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Gov’t workers to get early 13th month pay

Pag-IBIG also offers calamity loans
Manila Bulletin

Government workers in flood-devastated areas will receive their 13th month pay early to help them cope with the destruction caused by tropical storm Ondoy.

President Arroyo on Tuesday ordered the Department of Budget and Management to release in advance the additional payment for state employees hurt by Ondoy's wrath during a meeting of the National Disaster Coordinating Council in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

The financial aid to government workers was recommended by Vice President Manuel “Noli” de Castro to help the affected employees get back on their feet. De Castro also encouraged private companies to extend the same gesture to their employees affected by heavy rains and floods.

De Castro also separately announced that the state-run Home Development Mutual Fund (HDMF) or Pag-IBIG Fund has started accepting applications for calamity loans, allocating an initial P3 billion to accommodate loan applications by members affected by Ondoy.

Apart from the financial relief for state employees, the President and her cabinet agreed to donate their two months’ worth of salaries to the relief and rehabilitation efforts. The estimated contribution from the Arroyo cabinet can reach as much as P4.3 million.

Other government measures tackled in the NDCC assembly are the crafting of an executive order for special non-working holiday for calamity areas, financial lending packages, intensified police visibility in affected communities, and disaster preparedness measures.

“Vice President Noli De Castro has two recommendations – one, if we can advance the 13th month pay (of government workers) and the other one is to donate our two month salaries for the relief and rehabilitation operations,” the Chief Executive said during the NDCC meeting.

Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. affirmed that his department can soon issue a circular for the release of the 13th month salary of affected workers in government. “We can do that,” Andaya told the President.

Imelda Escamillas, press relation officer II at the Office of the Press Secretary, welcomed the early release of the 13th month pay to help repair her apartment that was submerged in knee-deep flood waters.

Escamillas said the first half of the 13th month pay of government workers was actually released last June and the other half was supposed to be released in December.

Another storm victim from the OPS, Beldad Gantalao, said that while he appreciates the early release of his salary, it was sad they could no longer look forward to more money for Christmas shopping.

Unless the President gives her annual P5,000 cash gift, government workers would have to budget their monthly salary for the holiday season, Gantalao said.

Amid reports that hundreds of cars were submerged in floods, the President also appealed to auto dealers and repair shops not to take advantage of the situation and instead "give a good price rather than a higher price."

As the country braces for another weather disturbance, the President also ordered the forced evacuation of residents in calamity-prone areas.

Meantime, hundreds of flood victims poured into Malacanang a day after President Arroyo opened the Palace as a government relief center. Many urban poor families mostly coming from Manila flocked to get food, medicine, and shelter.

According to De Castro, who heads Pag-IBIG Fund’s Board of Trustees, he ordered all fund offices to prioritize the processing of loan applications from members victimized by the storm.

To date, Metro Manila and 25 other provinces in Luzon have been placed under a state of calamity. These include the provinces of Aurora, Quirino, Nueva Ecija, Nueva Viscaya, Pangasinan, Tarlac, Zambales, Pampanga, Bulacan, Rizal, Quezon, Isabela, the Mountain Province, Ifugao, Benquet, La Union, Batangas, Cavite, Mindoro Occidental, Mindoro Oriental, Marinduque, Camarines Norte, and Bataan.

De Castro advised members to file their loan applications at the Pag-IBIG offices nearest them, because they have only 90 days from the time of the calamity within which to apply for loans under the program.

De Castro said that under the Fund’s Calamity Loan Program, members could borrow up to 80 percent of their total accumulated savings, with an interest rate of 10.75 percent each year. The loan has a five-month grace period and is payable in 24 months.

He explained that members with existing Multi-Purpose Loans could still apply for assistance but the outstanding Multi-Purpose Loans balance would be deducted from the proceeds of their calamity loan.

To qualify, applicants must be residents of localities declared as calamity areas. They must also have paid at least 24 monthly contributions and are active members at the time of application. They must continue to remit their contributions during the term of the loan.

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