A month before Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos’ inauguration as president, he aspired for his administration to achieve a P20 per kilo retail price of rice without sacrificing the farmers’ earnings.

However, consumers can achieve a P20 purchase of rice, but only with ¼ or half a kilo.

According to agriculture and rights advocates, such a campaign is deemed unrealistic and hence idealistic and ultimately neglects the plight of the farmers in rural areas to the marginalized communities in urban.

Situation of urban poor settlers

“Hirap na kami dahil sa pandemya, ngayon, dinagdagan pa ng oil price increase,” affirmed Urban Poor Coordinating Council (UPCC) spokesperson Carmelita “Ka Mameng” Collado.

[We have been struggling because of the pandemic, worsened with the oil price increase]

The Urban Poor Coordinating Council (UPCC) is an alliance of marginalized communities across National Capital Region which aims to unite all sectors regarding issues of demolition threats alongside the adverse effects of the continuing global health and fiscal crisis with the massive price increases on oil products, food, and basic commodities.

Since January 2022, petroleoum products consistently increase by 21 times. While there were reductions of rollback, it could hardly compensate the costs endured by drivers, commuters, to ordinary Filipino families.

“May nababalitaan tayong nagrorollback, P2, P4, ang tanong nagrorollback ba ang sardinas? Bababa ba ang presyo ng noodles? Bababa ba ang presyo ng bigas?” asked Collado.

[We heard that there have been rollbacks, P2, P4, the question is: does the sardines roll back? Will the price of noodles go down? Will the price of rice go down?]

The UPCC called for a P203 wage increase across the board nationwide. A number derived from the P203 billion estate tax liabilities of the Marcos family. Collado further stressed that the current minimum wage is inadequate to suffice the daily living of the marginalized, especially when they are those who shoulder such big adjustment.

“Ang panawagan namin, sana ang presyo maging makatarungan naman. Kung bakit namin pinapanawagan ang P203 increase across the board ay dahil hindi sapat ang kasalukuyang minimum wage dahil may pandemya na, matagal nang nawalan ng trabaho at nagkakaroon ng adjustment period ang mga maralita,” Ka Mameng added.

[Our call is for the just and fair prices. The reason why we are calling for the P203 increase across the board is because the current minimum wage is not enough especially when there is already a pandemic, that the poor have lost their jobs for a long time and are having an adjustment period]

The current minimum wage for workers in the region is P570 from the then P533 based on Wage Order No. NCR-23 issued by the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board last May 14. However, according to Ka Mameng, the increase is but an insult made by the Duterte administration and now with Marcos Jr. to reason to the workers who have been displaced, earning an insufficient wage with little to no benefits, and forced to work overtime amid harsh and over-long lockdowns during pandemic.

In fact, Philippine Statistics Authority reported that a three-month consecutive unemployment rate upsurge with 6% (2.93 million) in May which was higher than 5.7% (2.76 million)  in April and 5.8% (2.87 million) in March this year. According to research and economic group Ibon Foundation, eight out of 10 new jobs are just part-time jobs.

Preparation for SONA

Ka Mameng was arrested in May last year in Pook Manatili amid heightened tension and violent dispersal between the police and the residents who formed a human barricade against the fence construction. The same month this year, violent dispersal of protest took place at the US embassy in Manila resulting to the arrest of two individuals.

With the upcoming State of the Nation Address by., Ka Mameng deemed that violence and brutality may likely to happen especially under the new regime of Marcos Jr.

“Sa tingin namin magiging marahas. Pero kung hihinto nalang kami doon sa karahasan, paano pa namin ipaglalaban ang aming karapatan? Kaya nakahanda kami, magkakapit-bisig kami. Ganito naman kaming mga maralita, eh. Tuwing nadadapa, palaging babangon. Kaya tuloy lang ang laban,” Ka Mameng affirmed.

[We think that the upcoming SONA will be violent. But if we just cow down, then how can we fight for our rights? We are prepared and ready. This is who we are. Whenever we stumble, we always get up. And so the fight shall continue]

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