By DAWN CECILIA PEÑA
MANILA – A group of Filipino farmers and fisherfolk has called out Ferdinand Marcos Jr. as there remains no word on the proposed lifting of excise tax on oil and other value-added taxes as prices of food and other essentials continue to soar.
“We can truly feel the increase in prices of food and goods. The government itself is the driving force behind this crisis, due to its continued failure to heed the call to suspend the excise tax and VAT on oil products,” said Anakpawis Partylist National President Ariel Casilao in a press statement.
This month, the Philippine government recorded a 6.4 percent inflation rate in July, the highest since October 2018.
Meanwhile, citing data from the Department of Energy, Anakpawis said diesel prices in July were 84 percent higher than last year, while gasoline and kerosene prices were 47 percent and 77 percent higher, respectively.
“Unity alone will not address this. Political will is needed to resolve this crisis, but because the ultimate problem is denied by the Marcos regime, such as its pronouncement regarding inflation saying it’s ‘not that high’ and that the ‘state of the nation is sound’, how will we go towards the appropriate solution?” Casilao said.
More budget needed
Fisherfolk group Pamalakaya said the budget for the agriculture sector must also be increased to address the ongoing food crisis.
In an earlier statement, Pamalakaya spokesperson Ronnel Arambulo said the “neglected agriculture sector deserves a drastic budget increase next year.”
“The budget should be responsive to the needs of our ailing rural sectors who have been left to bankruptcy due to the economic impacts of the pandemic, inflation, and import-liberalization policies,” said Arambulo.
In 2022, the Department of Agriculture was provided with P68.5 billion ($1.2 billion) in funds, a mere 1.4 percent out of the P5 trillion ($90 billion) national budget.
Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman earlier said the 2023 national budget would amount to P5.3 trillion ($95.4 billion), with a primary focus on agriculture, education, health, infrastructure, and defense.
This 2023 budget, the fisherfolk group said, must include a comprehensive stimulus to agricultural workers. Their earlier proposal includes financial aid amounting to P10,000 ($180) and P15,000 ($270) production subsidy for farmers, fishers, and agricultural workers.
Marcos Jr. recently said he plans to push for a farm-to-market road masterplan to ensure food security in the country.
“What good are farm-to-market roads if they do not have anything to transport? Agriculture and fisheries productivity has worsened due to continuous hikes in production costs,” said Pamalakaya.
Subsidy is needed
According to the peasant group, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, incessant oil price hikes triggered additional costs of P8,000 ($143) since March this year, which were used to procure irrigation and farm equipment used in palay production.
Casilao added there is an urgent need to provide a P15,000 production subsidy to farmers and fisherfolk, to lower the price of the cost of food production, while suspending oil taxes.
The Philippine Statistics Authority reported that transportation logged the highest inflation at 18.1 percent, followed by food products at 7.1 percent. Food inflation was also higher in areas outside Metro Manila at 7.2 percent. Further, the purchasing power of the peso fell to 0.86, based on 2018 prices.