By Jared Pacheco and Ignacius Cruz

Cartoon by Billy Abistado

Amidst the current economic crisis of the Philippines, it is baffling that the President, who is supposedly the number one person every Filipino trusts to uplift their current situation, does not know what to do. Actually, it’s no surprise when a college dropout, who had to fake his diploma, is the elected president of the country. 

In his first press conference as the Chief Executive, the late dictator’s son Ferdinand “BongBong” Marcos Jr. sparked controversy when he vehemently denied the PSA’s report of a 6.1% annual headline inflation rate in June 2022. This is the highest inflation rate since October 2018, which heavily roots from the supply of basic commodities and has consequently caused food shortages in the country.

However, the current administration’s conflicting stances on whether the country will continue the importation of products do not provide substantive action to address the issue. With the dependence of the Philippines on imported products for stabilization, the constant negligence of the government on the conditions of agriculture laborers like farmers and fishermen for decades, and the diverging statements from the current administration will only exacerbate the problems rooted in the supply chain of goods.

Furthermore, PSA has reported a 6% unemployment rate for the month of May. Economist Leonardo Lanzon has attributed this to how the rising prices of goods and unsatisfactory economic conditions have caused a huge chunk of the labor force to be unemployed due to the operational adjustments made by firms to cope with both the pandemic and the economic crisis. The numbers may appear to be small, but in reality, the effect of a high inflation and unemployment rate is life and death for Filipinos who cling onto a day’s wage to put food on the table and help their respective families survive in an already deadly pandemic situation. Without concrete plans of action to solve these economic matters, this leaves many people, especially the most vulnerable, suffering the dilemma of dying in hunger, poverty, and government incompetence. 

Sadly, the more palpable impact is felt by the masses—by jeepney drivers who earn nothing but loose change at the end of the day because of the ₱86/L gas price; by commuters who have to shoulder the additional fare in PUVs and PUJs; by market vendors and consumers who suffer from the rising costs of basic commodities; by office workers whose salaries are punished by the weakening Peso; by average laborers who cannot put food on the table for their families because they are unemployed and out of business; by farmers whose dire working conditions pull them below the poverty line. It is the Filipinos on the ground who are drastically affected by the inflation rate. 

Well, as expected, in an attempt to save the face of Marcos Jr., Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno tried to clarify the issue. He stated that a misunderstanding has ensued and that the President was referring to the January-June 2022 inflation which is about 4.4%. However, the point of the entire question towards Marcos Jr. was to extract his specific solutions to the growing inflation rate in the country that has lowered the purchasing power of Filipinos as stated by national statistician Dennis Mapa.

Another thing to question here is the priorities of the President. Despite the effects of the economic crisis at hand, Marcos Jr. decided to prioritize crafting executive orders that do not address our economic predicament. With the government’s prerogatives set on renaming Ninoy Aquino International Airport and abolishing the Duterte administration-established commissions and offices, it is easy for the people to insinuate that the Marcos administration does not care for the rising inflation and unemployment rates. His first concerns may very well be focused on celebrating his win and his decrepit mother’s birthday with his exclusive colleagues. 

If Marcos Jr. is indeed serious about his promises during the election period, if there were even any, change is now warranted in terms of how his administration is responding to the country’s problems. There should be a discussion on suspending the excise tax on oil to alleviate the suffering of PUV and PUJ drivers who are currently being forced to leave their occupation and find a new one which in turn affects the hundreds of thousands of commuters in the nation’s capital and other regions. 

Furthermore, providing immediate financial aid to the country’s local producers composed of farmers, fishermen, poultry, and hog owners would better the current shortage in supplies of basic commodities given that the Philippines cannot, at all times, rely on imported products because other countries are also having troubles with their own economies. But also on the flip side, with the lowering purchasing power of our currency, stimulus for the people is needed in order to revive the economy because even if supplies from the producers may rise given that the current administration aims to strengthen it, without the demand from the buyers who are currently empty-handed, the economy will not function. 

As the Chief Executive, it is through his leadership that the Filipino people will be pulled out of this economic crisis. While these solutions may not be sustainable in the long run, the problems that the people experience are urgent and require urgent solutions. Beyond these, the government must take needed actions to change the oppressive systems that form the root cause of these problems. High inflation and unemployment rate cannot be cured overnight. Instead of arguing over fact-based numbers, the government should use them to formulate sound decisions in order to improve the life of every Filipino. Ordering his colleagues in the legislative branch to start drafting laws that will directly benefit Filipinos, such as expediting the release of social amelioration packages, is the change the masses want to see, and not changing the name of an airport just because a Marcos is once again on top or establishing a new Senate building to seem advanced. 

Soon enough, if Marcos Jr. continues to neglect the constant high inflation rate and outstanding national debt by failing to spearhead the government’s response to the golden prices of commodities, the day people are left with no jobs, no proper transportation, no salaries, and no food to eat is not an if anymore but a when. Perhaps he needs to seek guidance from an economist and college graduate in order to fulfill his elected duty.