THE WAY I SEE IT | Susan Amoroso
I was talking to the wife of Juan who earns P375 per day in an export processing zone in Cavite. She said his take home pay is not even enough to buy their family of five a kilo of pork which cost P400 per kilo. When President Rodrigo Duterte imposed a price ceiling through the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Agriculture, the vendors refused to sell their pork at the mandated price ceilings. It is not just the price of pork but the prices of fish, chicken, vegetables and fruits have also doubled. This is what happens when transport and production cost is not contained by the government. Factor in the profit of middlemen. When economic lockdowns are imposed for long periods of time, a crisis in supply and demand follows resulting in price increases. The DA’s plan to import pork to normalize the supply of pork has been met negatively by the local pork industry citing the Rice Tariffication Law of 2019. They said the law which allowed the flooding of imported rice in the market did not lower the price of rice but lowered the price of “palay” instead. The local rice farmers suffered. This could happen to the local pork industry.
As if the high cost of food is not enough, the hapless consumers also must pay their water and electric bills that have piled up, if not their utilities will be cut off by the water and electric distributor –concessionaires such as Meralco, Maynilad and Manila Water.
What about the millions of renters and those amortizing their homes with bank loans? Will they be able to pay their rents and amortization? Non-performing loans by local banks have risen in the past months. Back rentals are becoming the new normal in the property leasing and mall industry. In the meantime, the people are wandering when the community quarantine will be lifted and the people will be allowed to travel without taking the covid swab tests.
Philippine economic managers are at loggerheads with the covid task force. The Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) aka covid task force and Metro Manila mayors insist that the nation stay under general community quarantine with the exception of areas with no covid transmission in the last month. But the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) and the Department of Finance (DOF) are saying the President has declared the entire nation under an enhanced modified general community quarantine (EMGCQ)status to steam roll the economy back. It’s been 11 months since the lockdowns of March 2020. The vaccine roll out will start next month. Malacanang’s latest pronouncement is the crafting of IATF’s do’s and don’ts for the “new normal’’ of areas with zero covid transmission in the last month.
The Philippine economy is gasping for breath as the Duterte administration grapples with a P10 trillion debt even as the foreign remittances from the OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) plummets to USD33.9 billion for 2020, a drop of 0.8 percent from 2019 level of USD33.46 billion. Foreign remittances of OFWs remain the main driver of Philippine economy. Meanwhile the peso is gaining strength against the dollar which is not good for families of OFWs. A strong peso means the exchange rate for the dollar means less pesos to a dollar.
The agri-aqua industry and business sectors under the DTI and DA as well as the OFW sectors must now be the main focus of the Duterte administration. It’s about time Malacanang refocused its aim on national food security, job creation, business reinvigoration and the lowering of water and electric bills. The covid tests imposed on local travelers have dampened business especially in tourist areas. Mom and Pop businesses are folding up. Schools have remained closed. Millions are feeling desperate and powerless to stem the tide of economic depression. Those in power seem deaf and calloused to the groans and pains of the people.