By VENMAR CECILLE
MANILA – For ordinary people, the supposed economic growth of the country means nothing as they continue to suffer from the impacts of food inflation.
Multi-sectoral groups recently held a protest action in front of Commonwealth Market in Quezon City to expose the real conditions of poor Filipino families amid the supposed economic growth flaunted by the Marcos administration.
Recent data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reveal that the gross domestic product of the country posted a growth of 7.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2022. For this, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said that the economy is “moving in the correct direction.”
However, this direction is ironically difficult for the urban poor.
In a statement, the urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) said that the government has failed to grab the opportunity to help strengthen the purchasing power of Filipinos through substantial wage hikes and urgent cash aid.
“We must not forget that in the government’s own data, more families have lost their savings and more Filipinos are working in the informal sector, all due to the rising prices of commodities,” the group said.
The government only distributed P18.3 billion ($335 million) in targeted cash transfers (TCT) out of the P37.2-billion ($681.2 million) budget for the program, which would supposedly provide P3,000 ($55) aid for the poorest 12.4 million families, according to economic think-tank Ibon Foundation.
In addition to this, data from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) state that less than three-fourths of the beneficiary households received just two-thirds of the amount promised, or P2,000 ($37) per family to 9.2 million families.
The urban poor group asserted that the government could have prioritized the passing of the National Minimum Wage Bill (HB 4898) and Pro-Worker Security of Tenure Bill (HB 2173), which would alleviate the conditions of the working Filipinos, providing a national minimum wage based on livable standards.
Ibon Foundation also underscored that the P33 ($0.60) hike in the nominal minimum wage in June 2022 was not enough to keep up with the soaring inflation. They also stated that the average daily nominal wage of P404 nationwide is just one-third of the nationwide family living wage of P1,146 ($21).
“Amid high prices and low incomes, the government refusing to release ayuda (aid) and give bigger wage hikes pushed Filipinos into poverty,” IBON Foundation stated in their statement.
Since the advent of Marcos Jr’s administration, the number of poor Filipino families increased by 700,000 to 12.9 million, according to the self-rated poverty surveys of Social Weather Station (SWS).
Funding of government programs that could have helped poor households was also slashed.
Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) experienced a P5.1 billion ($93.4 million) budget cut and the KALAHI-CIDSS community development program by P2.8 billion ($51.3 million).
“Gutom (hunger) era, not golden era is what to be expected of the Marcos Jr regime if his government continues to ignore the real conditions of poor Filipinos while misusing public funds and resources for excessive foreign trips and unnecessary personal agenda,” Kadamay stressed. (RTS, RVO, JJE)