According to the Center for Women’s Resources, from October 2010 to October the prices of many, if not all, commodities increased substantially.
By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
MANILA — Some Filipino families will be including ham, queso de bola and fruit salad in their noche buena, but what about the rest of us?
The Center for Women’s Resources recently released two reports on the continuing increase in the prices of basic commodities. The research institution focused on the impact of the government’s economic and political policies on women. It said that for many families, Christmas Day 2011 may well be just another day to be suffered in poverty and want.
According to the CWR, from October 2010 to October the prices of many, if not all, commodities increased substantially. Prices of seasonings such as fish sauce (patis), soy sauce and vinegar shot up. This may not sound much of a big deal, but the import of this fact grows when one considers that millions of urban poor community residents often rely on these seasonings to give their plain rice some flavor.
The CWR also made a list of what urban poor community residents consider as staples and the group surveyed two up to six brands of these staples for changes in prices. Among six surveyed brands of sardines, prices rose from 10 centavos to P1.15. This meant an increase of .88 percent to 9.91 percent. Coffee refill packs offered by six brands increased by 75 centavos to P4.60, translating to an increase of 4.84 percent to 13.67 percent. Five brands of laundry soap increased prices ranging from 75 centavos to P3.95, or by 1.33 percent to 10.19 percent. The fast becoming rice-alternative instant noodles chicken flavor became more expensive by at least 50 centavos per pack. Vinegar became more expensive by at least P1.00 (or 9.09 percent); soy sauce by P1.90 (or 15.70 percent) ; and fish sauce by P2.40 to P30 (15.64 to 27.27 percent).
Mothers were also forced to bear the increase in the prices of milk — milk products became more expensive by as much as P6.00. The increases in the prices of condensed, evaporated and powdered filled milk products ranged from 4.56 percent to 10.19 percent.
Three toilet soap brands posted price hikes from P1.00 to P1.70 per bar, or by 3.64 to 7.98 percent.
The CWR said prices of these products are actually higher in many stores because of the 12 percent expanded value added tax. The institution said consumers would benefit much if the EVAT was removed.
In the meantime, the CWR also came out with its own critique of the recently passed 2012 budget.
Last November 29, the bicameral panel of the House of Representatives passed the P1.816 trillion ($ 41 billion ) national budget which is higher by 10.4 percent or P171 billion compared to the 2011 budget of P1.645 trillion ($38 billion).
The CWR said that at first glance, the allocations for social services at P575.8 billion ($13 billion) appear to be substantial, but it is actually small compared to allocations for debt servicing. The money devoted to paying the principal amortization and interest payments of debts are much higher than funds for social, economic and public services.
Much has already been reported about the budget cuts against education which the CWR also mentioned. It also went on to note that allocations for housing and community development are also minuscule given its importance – only P7.1 billion ($162 million ) despite a housing need of 3.7 million. While 79 percent of the funds or P5.63 billion ($139 million ) will go to the National Housing Authority (NHA), majority of the funds will be for the agency’s maintenance and other operating expenses, and not for actual public housing units. The government also remains committed to its goal of destroying and eradicating the communities of urban poor.
Skewed economic priorities and twisted political manueverings
The arguments of the CWR against the 2012 budget and what it deems as the Aquino administration’s skewed fiscal priorities resulting in worsening economic woes for the poor are bolstered by political developments.
Two lawmakers of the Gabriela Women’s Party Luz Ilagan and Emmie de Jesus are calling on the Department of Justice and the Veterans Memorial Medical Center to reveal how much it has been spending “prettifying” ex-president and Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo’s prison cell. The two lawmakers said the Aquino government should not overspend on the former president’s detention.
“It would be scandalous to spend so much on one prisoner amid growing poverty, budget cuts on social services and so-called calls for austerity. Moreover, let us not waste taxpayers’ money on one inmate who is, in the first place, accused of plundering the nation’s coffers,” Ilagan said.
Ilagan pointed out that the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) operates on a budget of P1.51 billion ($35 million) and P5.15 billion ($116 million) respectively.
With some 110,000 inmates this translates to an annual budget of P60,545 ($1,408) per prisoner. The government allocates P18,250 ($424) as annual food budget and P1,095 ($25.46) annual medicine budget per prisoner. This translates roughly to a P50 ($1.16) daily food allowance and a P3 ($0.069) daily medicine allowance.
“Let’s remember that over 60,000 other prisoners are making do with less than P165 a day ($3.83) , with a daily budget of P60 ($1.40) for food and medication,” she said.
Ilagan recalled how Mercy Castro and Juvilyn Oliveros of the Morong 43 were denied proper medical treatment and made to languish in ordinary prison cells despite sensitive pregnancies. In September of this year, political detainee Crisanto Fat died of a lingering heart ailment in Negros Occidental. “Let us not allow double standards in the exercise of justice,”she said.
De Jesus, in the meantime, was disgusted over the government’s willingness to spend millions for Arroyo’s detention.
“It’s offensive. In the 2012 budget, only P1.17 ($0.0272 ) per day is devoted for the health needs of every Filipino,” she said.
“While they are willing to spend for the hospital arrest of a former president who have been accused of plunder, electoral sabotage and human rights violations because she is sick, the poor who are suffering from basic ailments hardly receive quality and proper medical attention from any government hospital. Where’s the justice in that ?”she said.
?De Jesus said the Aquino administration must account for its evident indifference to the health needs of poor Filipino patients while acceding to cover the cost of the accused ex-executive who has shown her capacity to pay for a hospital suite and be charged P50,000 per day ($1,162).