The country’s largest workers’ unions the Associated Labor Unions (ALU) is urging President Duterte to order a price freeze on basic commodities and go after profiteers in the light of extraordinary increases in the prices of food and other staples upsetting workers and their families in recent weeks.
According to ALU National Executive Vice President Gerard Seno, aside from extending price freeze and hunt down hoarders and price manipulators, the workers group also urge President Duterte to deploy more Diskwento Caravan and Kadiwa rolling stores to bring affordably-priced basic food commodities to communities and work sites, to link up with cooperatives, businesses, to provide wage subsidy to workers, to fast-track shipment of basic commodities from Mindanao and to ensure price list is widely published. Below is the whole copy of the draft letter sent to Duterte today:
“Dear President Duterte:
We write to His Excellency, for and on behalf of the Minimum Wage Earners (MWEs) and their families, for urgent action by relevant Departments of Government to put in place effective price controls on basic commodities and to provide a wage subsidy for workers for their nutritional needs. Even weeks before the expiry of Presidential Proclamation 1081, the prices of basic commodities spiralled upwards as unscrupulous traders and middlemen and socially irresponsible retailers tossed the proclamation aside in their rush to make profits hands over fist. Workers were left with no recourse but to rely on noodles, 3-in-1 coffee and other substitutes just to fill their stomachs.
Mr. President, after the battering of six typhoons and in the face of the continuing perils and tribulations of the Covid-19 Pandemic, the survival situation of our brother and sister MWEs and those unemployed and underemployed and their families are now at the brink. Millions of workers, since March 2020, were either on “No Work, No Pay” hold-over arrangements, or compelled to undertake job-sharing or job-rotation agreements, or to be placed on no compensation furlough as employers extended the suspension of their business operations. Millions, in the worse case, were laid off. Truly, worker incomes took a severe battering, and what little savings they had, is long gone.
Now workers face the specter of going hungry as even the minimum daily wage of a worker in NCR of PHP 537 can hardly purchase a kilo of pork, including vegetables to meet the nutrition needs of a family of five. In our wet and dry markets and groceries, basic commodities are now becoming beyond-the-reach of workers as their diminished incomes are outpaced by the relentless rise of commodity prices.
A perusal of the price monitoring list conducted by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), as of January 6, 2021 demonstrate clearly the exorbitant increase of the prices of basic commodities from their entry farmgate price to their actual retail sale price.
In the face of this onslaught, we submit this humble request and urgent plea for the following policies and issuances from His Excellency:
1) Extending PROCLAMATION 1081 (issued in the wake of Typhoon Ulysses) indefinitely to freeze prizes of basic commodities.
2) For Diskwento Caravans and more KADIWA stores to be rolled out to factory zones and depressed and low income communities of the urban poor where the majority of MWEs and their families reside.
3) For the DA,DTI,DILG,DOJ, NBI, and PNP to go after and to actively prosecute price gouging middlemen, traders and retailers and to shut down hoarders. What they are engaged in is economic sabotage, and Government must go after them hammer-and-tongs. The ineptitude and lack of political will of both DA and the DTI in enforcing the Proclamation must become a thing of the past.
4) For the DOLE-DTI to initiate direct agri-producer co-op linkages with workers coops, unions, and employers to assure direct, affordable access of workers to food purchases without middlemen or traders. Direct access of
producers to MWE consumers is key to bringing down prices and crushing the food sector cartels.
For this purpose, the Leaders Forum of Business and Workers, composed of the ECOP, PCCI, PHILEXPORT for employers and of the TUCP,FFW, and SENTRO for employees should be tapped by Government to coordinate the means and methods for bringing down the prices and shortening the time and distance for foodstuffs to reach MWE families.
5) For the DTI to prominently post physically Suggested Retail Prices(SRP) for basic staples in markets, sub-market/talipapas, groceries, and supermarkets as well as all social media sites, providing instructions on how consumer complaints can be brought to the attention of DTI and LGUs.
6) For the DOLE to provide a WAGE SUBSIDY to the workers from the DOLE TUPAD budget in the form of cash transfers or voucher system to assist them in their food purchases.
7) For DILG and DTI to closely monitor the shipment of supplemental basic commodities being brought in from Mindanao to Luzon to assist in bringing down food prices by preventing traders and middlemen from further coopting and capturing these resources.
We believe that emergency, time-bound policies if implemented swiftly in genuine social partnership with employers and workers can go far in halting the escalation of prices in basic commodities. We offer ourselves to be part of the effort from the smallest chores to the highest strategy.
The damaging and deleterious effect of high and untrammelled commodity prices will translate to poor diets and inadequate nutrition for workers and their families. The UNICEF has warned that 1 in 3 Filipino children under the age of 5 is stunted in growth. We know that the mental and physical development of stunted children will be poor and that they tend to do badly in school. In 2019 the UNICEF ranked Filipino Grade 4 schoolers 59th and dead-last out of 59 countries in mathematics and science. In 2019, the OECD in an international ranking of students from 79 countries ranked our students 78th in reading literacy and 79th in science literacy and mathematical literacy. It is clear that this will compromise the future economic competitiveness of our next generation. Further, workers who do not have nutritious food will tend to be listless at work sacrificing badly needed productivity. At the end, both the weakened worker and the stunted child will be more fragile and may fall prey to more illnesses and diseases in the time of the Pandemic.
Please feel free to call upon us to be part of any effort to ensure that the prices of basic commodities are made affordable. We hope that you will consider our recommendations in the light of our desire to join in a noble whole-of-nation approach and wish Your Excellency the best always.”