Worried that Filipino workers are not being given enough access to free COVID-19 tests, presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has called on the government to allocate enough funds for RT-PCR tests for both local and overseas workers.
“Our workers are having a big problem due to the restrictions of the companies to protect and ensure the safety of everyone. It is very difficult for the workers to bear the cost of RT-PCR especially at this time when the economy is still crawling,” Marcos said.
Also, the BBM-Sara UniTeam will roll out a recovery roadmap for local hog raisers and put an end to runaway pork prices should they win in the upcoming 2022 elections.
Marcos Jr. and his running-mate Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte noted that higher inflation caused by soaring pork prices had become a burden on millions of Filipino families.
“High pork prices are a drain in the budget of Filipino households. Simply put, the issue in pork prices is mainly due to a supply problem that was worsened by the onslaught of the African swine fever (ASF),” the UniTeam said.
The former senator noted that several companies only give their employees access to antigen tests, because it is cheaper, and once they tested positive, they are barred from working without sickness benefits “because the Employees Compensation Commission (ECC) requires only RT-PCR results.”
The price of RT-PCR tests ranges from P1,000 to P3,000.
“We are aware that the workers have called for a free RT-PCR test but unfortunately it has not been addressed for whatever reasons. That is why we join the call for funding, especially from the DOLE in this matter,” Marcos said.
“The workers keep the economy moving. They are the backbone of every society. It is only right therefore that we give them the proper respect by taking care of their welfare, pandemic or not,” the Partido Federal ng Pilipinas standard-bearer added.
Marcos said that if he is given the mandate in May, his administration “will see to it that the welfare of the workers, both here and abroad, will be given priority and he will make sure that there will be enough contingency funds for any unforeseen problems that may arise.”
“I know the hardships and sacrifices of our workers. I will be with you in your aspirations and we will make sure that we always have the answer to any problem we face,” he said.
The BBM-Sara UniTeam added that its plan will include, among many, investments in research and development, direct technical assistance to hog raisers, and provision of loans.
The UniTeam is also eyeing to promote LGU-led agriculture initiatives, culling from the experience of Marcos Jr. in the province of Ilocos Norte, where the local government became a significant buyer of agriculture products to support the farmers.
“We are now in the process of crafting an agriculture blueprint that will provide long-term assistance to our local hog industry and hasten their recovery from the ASF and even from the Covid19 pandemic,” the UniTeam added.
According to the Department of Finance (DoF), meat prices shot up beyond expected ranges in 2021, and it accounts for 1.1 percentage points out of the 4.4 percent overall inflation registered last year.
Economists point out that some of the adverse effects of high inflation are rising prices and reduced purchasing power of consumers.
“We need to look beyond just trying to lower pork prices through importation. This early, we need to craft a solid plan to revitalize our hog-raising sector and help them grow the local hog population after the havoc caused by the African swine fever (ASF),” the BBM-Sara UniTeam pointed out.
ASF has decimated the local hog inventory, which dropped from 13 million heads in 2019 to eight million in 2021. The dwindling supply prompted the government to resort to importation, which resulted in a reduced tariff for imported pork.
Despite the ramping up of importation, pork prices have remained high. According to reports, prices in wet markets have remained above P300 per kilo and have not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels.
“Relying on importation as a sole means to control the prices is not a good long-term strategy and may even prove detrimental to our food security,” the UniTeam stressed.