A river of red lights flooded the stretch of Ortigas Extension in Pasig on a rush hour Friday evening. Stuck in traffic for a while, the cabbie removed his face mask and breathed a sigh.
“You know, it’s not just time we lose in traffic situations like this. It’s not efficient for the fuel as well. It’s already late and we’re still short of cash for gas,” he told this writer in Filipino.
Rising fuel costs coupled with the ballooning prices of basic commodities has left many families scrambling for money that would let them live through just one day.
Recent oil price hikes raised the average price of diesel in the Philippines to around Php 90 ($ 1.64), while gasoline prices are around P85 ($1.57).
“It’s so hard these days that you couldn’t even treat your family to McDonald’s for a weekend. The money you make just comes and goes like dust,” added the cabbie, who won’t say his name.
It’s even worse for other public utility vehicle drivers. Just a week ago, a 54-year-old jeepney driver made his last trip because the grind isn’t worth it anymore.
After more than 12 hours of ferrying passengers every day, Artemio Singko told a local news organization he’s just taking home a net of P300 ($5.51), way below the P570 ($10.37) minimum wage.
What scares him is the fact that he wouldn’t be able to find a new job because he thinks he is already overaged. He plans to just go back to the province and plant crops.
Inflation in the Philippines
In May this year, inflation accelerated to 5.4%, moving away further from the government’s target numbers.
The reasons they give for rising prices vary. Some officials blame the pandemic, some blame Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, while some just say it is what it is – a global trend that we can’t control.
There may be half-truths in those statements, but to say that there’s nothing we can do about the rising prices is just giving up.
We know there’s a global economic crisis, but aren’t these situations the very reason why we have governments?
And when you look at it closely, there are tons of things that the government can do besides saying it is a global crisis.
For one, Filipinos pay a lot of taxes, you got value-added taxes, sin taxes, and even excise fuel taxes under the government’s latest tax law.
There has been a clamor for the government to suspend some of these taxes, especially the excise fuel taxes to offset the rising costs.
But the government insists on taxing the working class to be specific to increase the budget for services and dole outs.
The intent is good, but we all know, and history shows, how corruption deprives the people of their fare share from the public budget.
Moreover, the government can even raise the minimum wage of the employees, something the masses have been clamoring for the last few years.
However, the minimum wage in the Philippines has only grown to 9.4% in the least 6 years. The latest wage hike, which happened last June, was only P33 ($0.60).
What the people need
Clearly, the working class couldn’t rely on the government to delivery quick solutions to the rising prices of fuel and basic goods.
Perhaps the private sector can do more by creating more job opportunities and providing decent salaries to the Filipino people who are very much willing to work.
Not only are Filipinos willing to work hard, but they are also committed in upskilling to meet the standards that organization may demand.
In fact, a lot of skilled workers in the Philippines are quitting their jobs recently, joining the “Great Resignation” phenomenon, to look for better career opportunities.
Some landed freelance work that would give them flexibility when it comes to time, but others, especially those with a family to feed, are looking for more stable options.
The Philippines is teeming with talent, and a lot of skilled, capable, and hard-working Filipinos are looking for jobs right now.
For businesses, it’s just a matter of scouring through the deep talent pool to find the right people for the right job.
Inflation is not just about numbers and trends. Real people lose livelihoods when prices rise. In this situation, employment is the key to survival and the private sector can help Filipinos get past this crisis.