Lawmakers slammed a National Economic and Development Authority statement Wednesday that a family of five can decently live on an income of P10,000 per month or about P67 per day for each person, even as the National Anti-Poverty Commission called for a nationwide wage hike.
NAPC said a nationwide wage hike would benefit 26-million Filipinos who are wage and salary workers and help poor families cope with price surges. Government employees also sought an increase in their monthly minimum wage from P10,510 to P16,000. Workers in the private sector, on the other hand, are asking for a daily minimum wage of P750.
Ridiculing the Neda estimate, Senator Panfilo Lacson said Filipino families can survive on P10,000 a month—as long as they stop breathing.
‘‘Actually, we can, but only if my family will eat only once a day, won’t brush our teeth nor take a bath, walk every day to and from our place of work but avoid perspiring so we won’t wash our clothes,” he said.
Lacson added: “And yes, ask my wife to stop watching her favorite telenovela because I will sell the television set. Ask my children to throw away their mobile phones so they won’t ask me for ‘pasa loads.’”
Lacson joined other senators in urging the government to do something to arrest the price increases that are being blamed on its Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion law.
In the House, Representatives Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna, Arlene Brosas of Gabriela, and Antonio Tinio and France Castro of ACT Teachers, challenged Neda officials to live on P10,000 per month and see for themselves how it feels like not to eat a decent meal in a day or cope with the rising cost of living.
“We challenge President Duterte’s economic managers to try and live within their P10,000 sample budget for a family of five and still tell those families that they are not poor and are already living above the poverty threshold,” they said in a statement.
“You are outrageously and shamelessly out of touch from reality,” Zarate said.
Zarate also slammed the President’s economic managers—Budge Secretary Benjamin Diokno, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia for “brazenly” downplaying the harsh effects of TRAIN.
“By saying that one can live on P67.00 per day, Neda is pushing Filipinos to go on a forced diet,” said Brosas. “They need to sober up and have a grasp of reality: Filipino families skip meals and skimp on other necessities just to survive amid nonstop price hikes,” Brosas said.
Tinio dismissed the Neda “sample household budget” as another public relations move to deodorize TRAIN and TRAIN-induced inflation, and to put down the calls for salary and wage hikes.
He said the real wage and purchasing power of minimum wage earners have swiftly declined due to the record high inflation rate of 4.6 percent nationwide and 5.2 percent in Metro Manila. The P10,000 a month, he added, was well below the P29,190 monthly cost of living for a family of five as computed by the think tank IBON Foundation.
The country’s biggest labor federation, the Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines, also denounced Neda’s statement, calling it an insult to all workers.
‘‘This is an affront to millions of poor Filipinos. We demand that the Neda retract this out-of-touch statement and we are demanding that Undersecretary [Rosemarie] Edillon apologize in public for insulting all of us with such a very low government standard of living and for taking the dignity of poor Filipino family to the lowest level,” ALU-TUCP spokesman Alan Tanjusay said.
Citing government statistics, NAPC Secretary Liza Maza said as of April 2018, out of a total 40.9 million employed Filipinos, almost two thirds or 63.8 percent are wage and salary workers.
Maza said poverty was a harsh reality for 21.6-million Filipinos. Among households, 3.75-million families are living below P302 a day or P9,064 a month, which is the official poverty threshold, she said, citing figures from the Philippine Statistics Authority.
The Confederation for Unity, Recognition, and Advancement of Government Employees also bewailed that their take-home pay is “not even enough to take us home.”
‘‘All that an ordinary government worker can hope for is to be able to eat thrice a day,” Courage national president Ferdinand Gaite said.
‘Meanwhile, the prevailing minimum wages vary by region and are all below the family living wage of P1,168 a day for a family of six, based on a study by the IBON Foundation.
‘The benefit of raising minimum wages closer to a living wage is further supported by data from the Family Income and Expenditure Survey, Maza added. In 2015, the PSA reported that 18.2-million families or 80 percent of the total 22.7 million Filipino families, depend on wages and salaries for their source of income. More than half of these families are at the bottom half of the wealth scale.
‘‘Poor Filipino families already have no choice but to survive every day on measly wages. That is already a fact, and the role of government should be to change that reality,” said Maza.
‘To take a significant step towards breaking this vicious cycle of everyday survival, current minimum wages must be raised closer to a wage level that allows families not only to survive but to live decently, the anti-poverty chief said.
‘‘We have to change our mindset. The conversation must be steered towards what is just and humane for Filipino families, and state policy must respond accordingly so that the poor are given a chance at a better future for themselves and for their children,” said Maza.
‘In May, leftist lawmakers filed a bill establishing a national minimum wage at P750 a day. If passed into law, the measure would abolish existing regional wage boards and establish a common minimum wage for all workers nationwide. With Vito Barcelo
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