Workers, Urban Poor Skip Meals to Cope with the Crisis

Doing odd jobs

The economic crisis is squeezing workers. For workers, performing well inside a factory is not enough to sustain a decent, simple life. They have to exhaust all means to generate more income outside working hours.

Companies that are into direct-selling seem to have benefited a lot from the pegging of wages at low rates and the continuous price hikes. Workers that we had interviewed told us that they sell Avon, Natasha, DXN, and other products to generate more income to augment their financial needs.

Jose Campilos, 20, fetches and carries pails of water for residents in an urban poor community in Intramuros, Manila. He does not have a regular salary. His income depends on the demand for water in the neighborhood and how much they want to pay him. He earns an average of P50-100 (US$ 1.12 to $2.25) everyday. He also washes clothes for other people for P100 to P200 (US$ 2.25 to $4.50) per bundle. But these are still not enough. To enable him to cope with high prices, he also collects plastic bottles and tin cans at night.
Celine, aside from saving money by using charcoal, also sells embotido, a Filipino dish, to her neighbors in the afternoon. Ruth also offers to do laundry during Sundays and accepts money or food as payment.

Dole-outs and subsidies to the poor

Despite the worsening crisis that is making workers and the poor, in general, to suffer, Ms Gloria Arroyo has remained deaf to their pleas and seems to be living in an illusion. Her posters bearing her picture beaming with the words ‘Ramdam ang Kaunlaran’ (Progress is being felt) continue to hang at major buildings, and highways.

Other posters, which reads `Labanan ang Kahirapan‘ (Fight Poverty), fill MRT stations.

But the only thing that the Arroyo government does to mitigate the sufferings of the people is to distribute dole outs and subsidies to the poor while benefiting from windfall revenues. The government collects P52 billion ($1,172,755,976) in revenues and is expecting to gain P18 billion ($405,953,991) more from the 12 percent VAT on petroleum products due to the increases in fuel prices.

A big section of the population wants the VAT removed and the oil deregulation law scrapped. But the Arroyo government stubbornly refuses to do so, which can be likened to its adamant refusal to heed the demand for a P125 ($2.81) legislated across-the board, nationwide increase in the daily wage. Instead, it is trying to deceive the people and desperately conjuring a good public image by using temporary and superficial solutions.

The P500 ($11.27) subsidy for those consuming less than 100 kWh of electricity purportedly benefiting 400,000 consumers, for example, makes people dependent on charity from the government. It reduces the poor to begging, depriving them of their dignity while the government tries to get credit for handing out crumbs from the money it gets from the poor themselves through VAT.

The government ordered a fare hike under the pretext of giving drivers, jeepney drivers particularly, some relief from high costs of fuel. Whilst it is understandable to help public transport drivers cope with oil price spikes, it would be the workers who have been denied substantial wage hikes that would be burdened by the fare hike. This government insulted workers by ordering a P10 to P20 (US$0.22 to $0.44) wage hike, an amount that is just enough to buy 2 packs of instant noodles, loaded with sodium and MSG.

The government won’t repeal the 12 percent e-vat, and legislate a P125 wage hike unless hundreds of thousands of workers and the poor fill the streets to demand not only for the repeal of the VAT, but also the removal of the Arroyo government, which is reducing the people into beggars. When that day happens, the poor will have more reasons to smile, even to laugh. Contributed to (

The Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) is an independent NGO based in Quezon city, Philippines, engaged in documentation & monitoring of human rights violations committed against workers. It conducts research, information and
supports advocacy campaign for workers’ rights promotion and protection. For more information, call or fax:632.4110256
or visit

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