By RONALYN V. OLEA
My sister and I usually go to the public market at least twice a month to buy vegetables and fish. While I knew that prices of goods have increased, I did not realize how steep the increases had been. One morning, the price of onions alone almost made me cry. At P160 per kilo, it is more expensive than branded chicken meat. I bought the smaller onions that cost P110 per kilo.
Later that day, my husband arrived home with some grocery items. He had yet to put down the bags when he told me: “Ang mahal ng asukal! (Sugar is expensive)” and showed me the receipt. Brown sugar is now P61 per kilo and its price had never tasted this bitter.
Last month, we bought a tank of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). I almost fainted as the delivery boy told me the price: P688. A friend would later tell me she purchased one for more than P700. Should I be thankful?
On our way back home, I asked my sister: “Nasaan ang pagbabago kay Noynoy? (Where is the change under Aquino?)” She replied: “Heto, ate. Tumaas ang presyo ng lahat. Iyon ang pagbabago. (Here, sister. The prices of everything have gone up. That is change.)” That day, the transportation fare increased to P8. If not for popular protest, the fare hikes in MRT and LRT trains would have been implemented soon.
One need not be an activist to feel that these are difficult times. So when the government boasted of a growth in the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), it meant nothing for ordinary Filipinos who have to fend for themselves. According to independent think tank Ibon Foundation, 70 percent of the population is struggling to survive at P104 a day to as low as P22.
Instead of regulating the prices of oil, President Benigno S. Aquino III only asked the Department of Energy to “soften the impacts of oil price hikes on the public.” Aquino said he is open to a proposal of scheduling the increases. The proposal would not stop the hikes; it would only delay them. The public has to wait for less frequent but bigger price increases. How can this become any better?
Worse, Presidential Communications Operations Office head Herminio Coloma Jr. practically exonerated the oil companies by saying there had never been price manipulations. So how do they intend to soften the impact of oil price hikes when fares have gone up and all the other basic commodities? Why not scrap the value-added tax (VAT) on petroleum products instead? Why not junk the Oil Deregulation Law that has caused the prices of petroleum products to increase by 139 times from 1996 to 2010?
How do Filipino families cope with the crisis? With the daily cost of living pegged at P957 for National Capital Region (NCR), it is a miracle how minimum wage earners survive. The P404 minimum wage for workers in the NCR is only 42.22 percent of the daily cost of living for a family of six. With the price increases, the cost of living has become definitely higher.
Workers have been calling for a nationwide wage increase. The Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) is pushing for the passage of House Bill no. 375 that aims to increase the wage of workers by P125 across the board nationwide. Government employees demand the same. But Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz told workers not to expect any increase until July this year.
Onions would not make government officials shed tears for the plight of the poor. In times like this, I re-learn that the Filipino people need to rely on themselves and continue the arduous struggle for a decent life for the majority.