The militant group Bayan rejected calls from government to give emergency powers to President Arroyo but recognizes the need for the government to control the prices of commodities. This call was echoed by the women’s group GABRIELA who called the current situation of run-away increases in the prices of food and other basic commodities as a “natural calamity” affecting the Filipino people.
Vol. VIII, No. 10, April 13-19,2008
The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance) said in a statement that there is no need to give emergency powers to Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, as some in government are suggesting, but recognizes that there is a need to control the soaring prices of commodities.
“Amid the unresolved and worsening issues of massive corruption and systematic cover-up of the abuses of the regime, there is a great danger of Arroyo using expanded powers for selfish political survival under the pretext of addressing the problem of high prices. The possibility of abuse and misuse of greater powers are not unfounded given the horrible track record of the regime,” said Renato Reyes, secretary general of Bayan.
“Existing rules and regulations are already available; the government simply needs political will to implement them if the regime sincerely intends to provide relief to the public battered by increasing prices,” Reyes added.
“Republic Act 7581 or the Price Act of 1992, for instance, mandates a President to impose a price ceiling on rice and other basic necessities during emergency situations and like occasions,” Reyes said.
Calling the current situation of run-away increases in the prices of food and other basic commodities as a “natural calamity,” the women’s group GABRIELA also called for price controls.
“What we are experiencing now with the soaring prices of basic commodities holds every bit of semblance to the effects of a natural calamity on the people. People, young and old, are lining up for hours under the scorching heat, scrambling to buy affordable rice. The situation is much like what we experience in a natural calamity where people could barely afford to buy food. We hold the Arroyo government accountable for this and demand that price ceilings be mandated immediately to arrest this chaotic situation,” said Nerissa Guerero, GABRIELA spokesperson.
“Price control is possible, feasible and, contrary to government claims, not detrimental to the country’s economy,” added Guerero.
Guerero said that a mandated price ceiling has been done in the past. She cited Executive Order 423 in 1990 when then President Corazon Aquino ordered the imposition of price ceilings on certain commodities including rice to “prevent unreasonable increases in prices.”
According to Center for Women’s Resources (CWR), and independent research institute for women, prices of basic commodities rose sharply from March 2007 to March 2008. Aside from rice, the most significant rise was noted in cooking oil (48.61 percent), liquefied petroleum gas or LPG (26.99 percent), powdered milk (20.81 percent) and sugar (20.14 percent)
Bayan likewise called for other measures as well. “The government can suspend the collection of the 12 percent VAT on oil products by simply writing a resolution asking Congress to implement it. This move will instantly bring down the pump prices of petroleum products by P5 to P6 ($0.12 to $0.14 at an exchange rate of $1=P41.595) per liter, and that of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) by P69 ($1.65) per tank,” said Reyes.
Reyes said, “We hold Arroyo directly accountable for the rising prices of the most basic necessities that the people consume. Her flawed, pro-cartel, and pro-imperialist policies of liberalization, privatization, and deregulation have aggravated the poverty and hunger of millions of Filipinos.
GABRIELA also blames the government for the soaring prices, “The Arroyo government, through its policies that neglect local rice production, prioritize agricultural production for export and gives precedence to rice importation over strengthening the capacity of local production, is accountable for the problem of soaring commercial rice prices. That it fails to stop the continuing phenomenal price hike of rice makes us surmise the possibility of it colluding with the big rice cartel that are currently swimming in profits from the exorbitant price of rice at the cost of the people’s misery,” said Guerrero.
But Bayan is not optimistic that the Arroyo government would step in to control the prices of food and other basic commodities. ”There are no indications that Arroyo will veer away from this policy direction on the economy. Her regime remains subservient to the dictates of multilateral institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, which have already thumbed down proposals for price controls. Arroyo is beholden to these banks since they provide the foreign loans needed to prop up a bankrupt and corrupt regime.
“Long-term policy reforms that will ensure that the current crisis of high and rising prices will not be repeated are no longer possible under Arroyo. It is difficult to expect economic reforms from a corrupt regime that is more interested in aggrandizing itself than in alleviating the plight of the poor. The calls for the removal of this regime are all the more justified by the current economic crisis,” Reyes concluded. (Bulatlat.com)