By Corina Oliquino i FilAm Star Correspondent
MANILA — Labor groups like the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) expressed dismay over the Philippine Statistics Authority’s newly-released poverty threshold, which said a Filipino family of five members can meet basic food and non-food items with just a PHP 10,481 monthly income.
“If we are going to use this as standard basis for our public and private policy to uplift our people from poverty, it would appear there is no sense of urgency in this poverty threshold standard amount set by the Philippine Statistics Authority,” TUCP President Raymond Mendoza said according to the Manila Bulletin.
“In it, there are no prospects of hope for the millions of poor Filipinos. This standard is so low and it wants to keep our status quo as it is,” Mendoza added, noting employers and business groups will also use the Government standard to say there is no need for a significant wage increases for minimum-wage earners.
“This very low standard erases the need for wage boards to provide significant wage increases,” Mendoza noted.
“It gives us the impression that ‘everything is okay’ and there’s no need for wage increases because minimum wages are higher than the minimum threshold,” he added.
In another report by The Philippine Star, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) has labelled the PSA study as ridiculous and inaccurate as it does not consider shelter, transportation, utilities, healthcare and education costs.
“The level of fantasy the PSA has reached to come up with this is significantly high. It’s impossible to comprehend how the PSA could have arrived at such a conclusion that PHP 10,000 is sufficient to sustain an ordinary Filipino family with five members,” said KIlusang Mayo Uno Secretary Gen. Jerome Adonis.
“Neither did it consider the continued increases in oil prices, electricity and water rates as effects of the TRAIN law,” Adonis added, noting the amount is only enough to feed Pinoy families who do not use electricity or pay rent once a day.
Adonis also claims the findings were released “to prevent workers from seeking pay hike.”
“Workers need and deserve a substantial wage increase because the current PHP 537 minimum is way below the PHP 1,000 estimated Family Living Wage,” Adonis noted, citing recent labor productivity in Metro Manila which grew by 35 percent from PHP 456,059 per worker to PHP 614,297.
He is also challenging PSA and National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) officials to try and survive on PHP 10,000 for a month.
Federation of Free Workers (FFW) President Sonny Matula, on the other hand, said to The Philippine Star the PHP 10,000 monthly is just a little higher than a prisoner’s allowance.
“Are we approximating a prisoner’s life with this PSA computation? With the higher cost of commodities, I don’t know how a family of five would survive with PHP 10,841 pesos a month,” Matula said.
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) activists recently described the poverty threshold set by the government as “unrealistic.”
Meanwhile, Marawi civic leader and opposition senatorial bet Samira Gutoc has described the PSA report as unbelievable, urging the agency to come up with “better, more credible research.”
“Let us examine the figures. This translates to PHP 244 a day or PHP 81.33 a meal for a family of five. Broken down further, about PHP 16.26 per person per meal in the family. In contrast, meal allowance of one who works in government is from PHP 150 to PHP 220. This is really disconcerting,” Gutoc said.
“If we were to take PSA’s estimates at face value, the meal stipend can almost feed five people: one mouth as opposed to five poor ones. This is why I have a problem with PSA’s assertions. I do not believe five persons can eat on a budget of PHP 244 a day,” Gutoc added.