Golden Touch

Golden Touch

- in Consumer, Economy, Opinion
A typical public market, in Danao. Image by Hulagway/Wikipedia

In Greek mythology, King Midas was granted by the gods the power to turn everything he touched into gold. At first, the proud ruler was delighted with his gift — until it turned his food and drinks and even his daughter into the coveted element.

By some act of human negligence and not of divine intervention, our country seems to have contracted a bad case of the Golden Touch.

Exactly a year ago, one could fetch a kilo of pork liempo for around P250. Shortly after the 2021 New Year’s Day festivities, however, Filipinos were aghast to find P400 price tags attached to pork slabs in our markets. This has pushed local canteens and food stalls to triple the price of pork viands. These past few weeks, it seems that nothing has been leaner than a pork vendor’s wallet as consumers have been avoiding the now-luxurious meat.

The prices of other food items and commodities, including rice, chicken, beef, and milkfish, have also skyrocketed — a trend that the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas attributed to the increasing prices of oil and agricultural products. However, as former House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano has pointed out, it is “one thing to look at the numbers on a spreadsheet, and quite another when you see the effect on the faces of our kababayans.”

“The increase in prices of these basic goods are being felt deeply by millions of Filipinos who were rendered jobless, poor, and hungry by the pandemic and made homeless by recent typhoons and natural disasters,” Cayetano said in a statement on Friday. “With a third of Filipino households reporting hunger and a quarter of businesses wiped out last year, the upward trend in the prices of our basic goods is another tragedy in the making.”

Having to feed a family of four, which is the average size of the Filipino family, with a daily minimum wage between P200 and P400 is already a tragedy. But to let our families suffer through such an inhumane situation while there’s an ongoing pandemic and with the prices of our basic goods competing with the price of gold, it’s fast becoming a farce. What has the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) been doing all this time? When was the last time they visited a market? Their sense of urgency is nowhere to be seen.

Congress has been disturbingly silent from the outside, but don’t let the calmness fool you. The new leadership of the House of Representatives has been turning the Batasang Pambansa into a marketplace, reminiscent of the den of vile merchants and money changers that had occupied the courtyard of the Temple in Jerusalem. Instead of working to secure our pandemic-stricken and disaster-weary people against brutal price hikes, Speaker Lord Allan Velasco’s clique has been busy with their Great Purge and the untimely revision of our Constitution, an alchemical attempt to turn air-filled pride into a golden legacy.

It’s not all doom and gloom, however. Through the initiative of the former Speaker and his sister Senator Pia Cayetano in the upper chamber, the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives Reform (CREATE) Bill is now well on its way to being approved by Congress’ bicameral conference, a step short of the President’s signature. The bill, which is seen to become the largest stimulus package in the country’s history, is expected to help millions of business owners and workers through direct financial assistance in the form of tax incentives.

With the filing of vaccine passport bills in both chambers of Congress, a comprehensive and inclusive vaccination program against COVID-19 will soon be seeing a nationwide rollout. Once adopted and implemented, Filipinos will be able to secure official and certified records of their vaccination history and status, which will be crucial for both international and domestic travel. The move will be a huge step in increasing the mobility of our productive elements and restarting our economy.

In our communities, we have also seen a wealth of best practices that seek to alleviate the poverty of our countrymen. Cayetano’s Presyo, Trabaho, Kita/Kaayusan (PTK) program, a micro-lending initiative, has provided financial assistance to community organizations and associations like farmers’ cooperatives and TODA drivers in different parts of the country.

When we’re talking about confronting high prices, joblessness, and inadequate wages, these are the golden touches we desperately need.

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