PRESIDENT Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. said on Tuesday the government’s efforts to temper soaring inflation are not expected to take full effect until the second quarter of the year.
Marcos made the pronouncement after the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported inflation soared to 8.7 percent in January from 8.1 percent in December 2022.
“As I said, the importation of many of the agricultural products, which have been a large part of the inflation rate…we have already taken some measures so that the supply will be greater and so that will bring the prices down, but that will take a little time,” Marcos said in a video message last Tuesday.
The government has approved the importation of onions and extension of the temporary modified rates of import duty for mechanically deboned meat (MDM) until next year in an effort to stabilize the prices of food.
State statisticians attributed the spike in inflation last month to a surge in the rent, electricity and water rates, as well as prices of food items like vegetables, milk, eggs, fruits and nuts.
Marcos, however, said he “sincerely believes” the prices of fuel and agricultural products have already reached their peak and would “slide down” in the coming weeks.
‘Failure of state policy’
Federation of Free Workers (FFW) Vice President Julius Cainglet blamed the spike on the prices of basic goods, particularly of food, from the President’s mishandling of the Department of Agriculture (DA).
“The President himself as Agriculture Secretary could have done a lot to arrest the rising costs of agricultural products such as onions, but he has been remiss of his duties, and instead arrests trade union leaders and activists who raise their voices against injustices and the economic crisis,” Cainglet said.
Rather than focusing on his mandate on pressing domestic concerns, the labor leader said the President is busy with his overseas trips.
“This shows the failure of state policy. In his first few months of office, the President has prioritized travels abroad in search of investments that don’t come due to failure to address human rights and trade union rights issues,” Cainglet said.
In response to the reported high inflation, labor groups renewed their calls for a minimum wage hike.
Partido Manggagawa (PM) said the high prices of basic goods have greatly “eroded” the minimum wage rates.
“The P570 minimum wage in NCR ]National Capital Region] is actually just worth P482 by December 2022. P88 has been shaved off the real value of the minimum wage. Meaning, not only has the P33 minimum wage hike in June 2022 been effectively wiped out by runaway inflation, workers’ real wages have pushed back even further,” PM chairman Renato Magtubo said in a statement.
The P570 daily minimum wage rate for non-agriculture workers in NCR is the highest rate nationwide.
Magtubo reiterated their demand to Congress to legislate a P100 across-the-board salary increase for all workers to provide them “relief from the shock of rising prices.”
For its part, the National Federation of Labor Unions-Kilusang Mayo Uno (NAFLU-KMU) wants Marcos to intervene in addressing the reduced value of minimum wage rates.
“What can the President do? Issue an Executive Order mandating the immediate increase in wages nationwide. It is simple, but his addressing it will prove his care for workers and their families, who are now starving daily,” NAFLU-KMU said.
Image credits: Jun Pinzon/Dreamstime