By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
MANILA — The student is no different from the teacher.
This was the stand of the BagongAlyansangMakabayan (BAYAN) on the exchange of insults between Malacañang and the camp of former president and now under hospital-arrest Pampanga representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Macapagal-Arroyo through her supporters, recently released a supposed study on the current state of the economy. In it, the former executive now charged with electoral fraud and corruption alleged that the Benigno Aquino administration has wrought damage to the economy through unintelligent mismanagement. The title of the paper was “It’s the Economy, Student!” referring to Aquino being Macapagal-Arroyo’s former student in a course on economics at the Ateneo University.
“Neither the President nor anyone else can truly expect to govern the next five years with nothing but a sorry mix of vilification, periodically recycled promises of action followed by lethargy, backed up by few if any results, and presumptuously encouraging gossip about one’s love life in which no one can possibly be interested. Given the electoral mandate that he enjoyed in 2010—the same size as mine in 2004, as predicted by every survey organization at that time—our people deserve more, and better, from him,”Arroyo wrote in her paper.
For Bayan, however, there’s no difference between the current president and his predecessor. Case in point, the group said, was how both administrations have done nothing to stop the incessant problem of excessive oil prices and continuing price hikes. Oil companies recently raised their pump prices by as much as P2.00 (US$0.05)per liter. World gasoline prices have already increased by around P1.75 (US$0.04) per liter while diesel prices rose by around P1.30 per liter in the international market.
“Just like the previous administration, the Aquino government has done nothing to provide immediate relief for consumers, as well as long term measures to protect the country from price speculation and profiteering,”Bayan said.
The increase in global oil prices rose due to intense speculation about a possible supply shortage to be caused by increasing tension between the United Sates and Iran. Bayan blamed the global oil cartel and the price speculators for pushing oil prices higher.
“The Aquino government has so far been grossly insensitive to the plight of the people. It has flatly ignored calls to remove the value added tax (VAT) on petroleum products. Its allies in the House of Representatives have sat on urgent bills reviewing the oil deregulation law,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.
“The economics student Noynoy Aquino is no different from his economics teacher Macapagal Arroyo in terms of their neo-liberal economic philosophy. Both favor deregulation and privatization. Both favor the value-added tax on oil. Both rely on failed targeted subsidies that do not have a significant impact on consumers,” Reyes said.
The group also scored reports thatthe congressional committee on energy chaired by Aquino ally Rep. Dina Abad has not held a single hearing on various bills that have called for the review or repeal of the oil deregulation law. Various groups have asked House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte last year to schedule the bills for public hearings.
“Removing the VAT on oil will not devastate the economy. It will in fact have a positive effect since lower oil prices will allow consumers to purchase other basic necessities. Even the proposed fare hike can be set aside so long as oil prices go down,” Reyes said. “The people’s disgust over the country’s economic conditions is fast catching up with Aquino. The President cannot expect the people to forget about their economic woes just because the impeachment trial is coming up,” he added.
Bayan also scored the Aquino government for its poor action on other crucial socio-economic issues.
“Aside from the belated filing of charges against Macapagal-Arroyo, there’s really nothing much that the present administration has achieved since it started its term. This is especially true for the economy. There has been no outstanding achievement in land reform, national industrialization and job creation and in poverty eradication. Aquino has shunned calls to remove the oppressive VAT on oil and power. The much-vaunted conditional cash transfer program has not made a dent on poverty,” Reyes said.
“Unemployment and overseas migration are also at an all-time high. Oil prices, water and power rates are soaring to new heights.”
Increasing food prices
In a related development, the Center for Women’s Resources released a report on the worsening impact of rising prices of commodities and oil products. The group cited the results of the 2009 National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) Poverty Survey stating that a family of five only needs P7,017 (US$ 160.17) a month or P84,205 (US$ 1,922.05) annually to stay out of poverty. In daily terms, the agency said, families only need P233.90 (US$5.34) a day to meet food and non-food needs on a daily basis.An individual only needs P46 (US$1.05) to meet his or her daily needs.
The CWR analyzed in detail the sample menu the NSCB recommends that Filipinos follow for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack meals. According to NSCB, the food items satisfy the recommended energy and nutrient intake for energy and protein (100 percent) and 80 percent of vitamin and mineral needs. The CWR used the same NSCB menu to determine if the suggested amount is realistic by researching the actual costs on the food items.
The breakfast menu consisted of scrambled egg with five eggs at P4.00 (US$ 0.09) each, 30 ml or 2 tbsp of cooking oil at P1.83(US$ 0.04), or P21.83 (US$ 0.50) all in all; coffee with milk (“three-in-one variety for two adults at P4.00 (US$ 0.09) each for P 8.00 (US$ 0.18) total; boiled rice regular milled at 3/4 kilo for P27.00 (US$ 0.62 ) per kilo or P20.25 (US$ 0.46).
Lunch consists of boiled boiled mongo beans with malunggay leaves (1/4 kilo beans at P14.00(US$ 0.32); one bunch malunggay leaves at P10.00(US$ 0.23); two pieces garlic and one onion for P6.00(US$ 0.14)) costing P 30.00(US$ 0.68) all in all; dried anchovies with pack costing P20.00(US$ 0.46); and boiled rice costing P20.25(US$ 0.46).
The dinner menu consists of half a kilo of fried tulinganfish (costing at P80.00 (US$ 1.83) per kilo; the four tablespoons of cooking oil costing P3.66(US$ 0.08)) for a total of P43.66(US$1)); boiled kangkong (two bunches at P10.00(US$ 0.23) per bunch for a total 20.00(US$ 0.46)); boiled rice for P 20.25(US$ 0.46).
Afternoon snack comprised of pan de sal (10 pieces pan at P1.00 (US$ 0.02) each for a total of P 10.00 (US$ 0.23).
According to the NSCB, only P162.35 (US$ 3.71) is needed per day the food needs per family, but the CWR, upon getting the actual prices of the food items from public markets such as the Nepa-Q in Quezon City said that to follow the NSCB’s menu to the letter, a family of five needs at least P214.24 (US$ 4.89) for their food needs per day, or P42.84 (US$ 0.98) per member, as compared to the NSCB’s reckoning of P32.46 (US$ 0.74) per family member.
The CWR also said this did not yet include the costs of water, and fuel for cooking such as LPG, kerosene or charcoal in its computation.
“Our computation shows that a family would need more than P200 (US$ 4.57) to purchase and prepare the food items listed above (based on the lowest retail market prices of products). This is way higher than the P162.30 (US$ 3.70) per family food expense based from NSCB’s computation of food budget. This doesn’t even include cost for water, and cooking fuel . The looming water rate hike this January and LPG price increase would make it even more difficult for families to stretch their continually shrinking budget,” the research group said.