18 hours of work per day? Small businesses bear the brunt of price hikes, call for government response


MANILA — Stupid and liars?

For the sister of a presidential candidate, Sen. Imee Marcos, working is like drinking a cup of coffee. The video, which claimed to be a satire, ended with a text that read: “Anyone who claims to work 18 hours a day is either lying or stupid.”

But for Filipinos running micro and small businesses, overworking has become the new norm as they confront the incessant rising of prices of oil and basic commodities.

“The prices of ingredients and basic goods have become unreasonable. We used to earn more when prices were not as high. But now, we need to consider the size and quantity of the products we are making to match our sales and capital,” Gil Padua, 57, told Bulatlat in an interview.

For almost 25 years of running their bakery in Padre Garcia, Batangas, price increases are nothing new for Padua.

From December 2021 to February 2022, however, Padua marked down a significant stretch in the cost of bread ingredients, particularly with flour, sugar, margarine, and oil, while the other ingredients and expenses in baking such as salt, yeast, skim milk, bread crumbs, wood, and plastic container remains the same.

In just a span of three months, the capital needed to sell 800 pieces of pandesal which cost P2 ($0.039) per piece increased from P925 ($18.04) to P1,026 ($20.01). However, his daily income remains stagnant between P400 ($7.79) to P500 ($9.74).

Bakery owner Gil Padua complains of the increasing prices of basic ingredients for baking. (Photo by Jewel Padua)

“There are other expenses such as our daily meals, water, and electricity bills, wifi consumption and other educational expenses since my daughter is having her online classes, which amount to at least P8,000 ($40) per month,” Padua added.

The incessant price hikes amid the pandemic are crippling the livelihood not only of Padua’s but the majority of families and micro, small and medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in the Philippines.

Independent thinktank IBON Foundation, citing government data, said that from 1.8 percent in 2020, food inflation increased to 3.2 percent in December 2021.

For six consecutive weeks, oil companies continued to implement price increases from P1.05 ($0.020) to P1.25 ($0.024). These oil price increases, according to IBON, are due to the country’s oil deregulation where the price of oil increased to 16 percent every year from 1996 to 2010 alone.

Read: #Undoing Duterte | Ordinary folk burdened with higher taxes, price hikes, stagnant wages

The same research group stated that since the country’s oil is heavily reliant on imports from international countries, the global oil price hike affects the cost of domestic oil in the Philippines that impairs the marginalized consumers and vendors and the majority of Filipino households.

Local vendors suffer amid price hikes

Rosa Soriano laments that she only has a handful of buyers since the pandemic. (Photo by Aira Mae Siguenza / Bulatlat)

Local consumers and vendors are also suffering from incessant price hikes and the lack of government action to assist them.

Read: Vendors struggle to survive amid price hikes

Fish vendor Rosa Soriano, 65, could hardly sell fish since the turn of the year as prices continued to climb.

“Ever since the pandemic, our livelihood in this market has changed. There are only a handful of buyers,” Soriano told Bulatlat.

She has been selling tuna, talakitok, tanigue, and sometimes galunggong in a Caloocan City market. Prices of tuna and yellowfin has increased by P50 ($0.97) to P100 ($1.95) per kilogram this year alone.

Every day, she goes to a fish port in Navotas to buy fish. If she successfully bargained the price, she would buy approximately 15 to 20 kilos of tuna worth P5,000 ($97.42) or almost P300 per kilogram ($5.85). This she would sell at P400 per kilogram ($7.79) and P300 per ($5.85) for the tuna and yellowfin, respectively.

As it stands, fish prices increased due to the closed fishing season that is expected to end this month, creating an artificial shortage, said fishers group Pamalakaya in an earlier statement.

To address this, the government has turned to importing fish, which Pamalakaya said would be harmful to the local fishing industry.

Read: Fishers’ group urges gov’t to lift closed fishing season, control market prices amid importation plans

Read: After Duterte’s ‘surrender’ of West PH Sea, gov’t moves to import more fish amid shortage

After a day’s work, local vendors like Soriano are only able to bring home somewhere between $10 to $20. She spends this on food, rent for stall in the market, tricycle rental to Navotas, and the education of her two grandchildren.

Both Soriano and Padua also ask the government to heed their calls for financial aid, job opportunities, and lowering the price of staples so they can get by in these difficult times.

“It’s not impossible to work for 18 hours a day, depending on one’s work or livelihood. Surely, however, workers are exploited and not receiving enough pay for the hours they rendered,” said Padua. (JJE, RVO) (https://www.bulatlat.com)

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