Families of workers receiving fixed wages are suffering the most from the sudden jump in the cost of rice and other food commodities.
The reason for this is simple. Workers spend up to three-fourths of their wages on food . . . and food prices tend to increase at a faster rate than non-food products.
Food prices have gone up since May, partly on account of the potential impact of El Niño on farm output, and partly due to profiteering by rotten traders.
Rice, garlic and oil have exhibited increases that have extended beyond the ordinary consumers to the financial markets.
The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) sees inflation ramping up further and closer to the ceiling of the government’s full-year target of up to 5 percent due to elevated prices on food, education and transportation.
Inflation hit 4.5 percent in May, the highest since November 2011, when it averaged 4.7 percent.
Inflation in June likely ranged from a low of 4.1 percent to a high of 5 percent, according to the BSP.
More than a thousand schools were granted permission to hike tuition this school year, while jeepneys in the Central Luzon region, the Calabarzon (Calamba, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon) region and the National Capital Region (NCR) hiked the minimum transportation fare by 50 centavos starting this month.
The prices of rice, a staple food that accounts for a significant portion of the consumer price index (CPI), have also ramped up due to tighter supply and on the impact of the El Niño weather disturbance on agricultural products.
Inflation could continue to tick upward in the latter months of the year.
The inflation rate refers to the pace of increase in the general price level of goods and services in an economy over a period of time.
A negative effect of higher inflation rate on the economy is the rapid erosion of the real value of wages, which means workers are able to buy fewer goods and services.
Amid the surge in consumer prices, both the House of Representatives and the Senate should give the highest priority to the passage of new legislation that would help ease the troubles of wage earners.
One option is to substantially lessen the income tax burden on workers. Right now, up to 32 percent of salaries are withheld as taxes.
Another option, of course, is to raise wages, considering that the Constitution mandates a “living wage” for labor.
Malacañang should also abandon plans to increase by an average of P5 the basic fare for a typical trip at the Light Rail Transit Lines 1 and 2, and the Metro Rail Transit Line 3.
The administration should forget about raising fares and slashing by P2.4 billion the annual subsidy to Metro Manila’s three elevated trains. This will only aggravate the plight of employees who use the trains to go to work every day.
The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board granted the tariff increase sought by public utility jeepney operators, raising the basic fare to P8.50 from P8.
Flood-induced delays in oil deliveries highlights the importance of pipelines.
Just a few hours or even minutes of heavy rainfall nowadays can cause floods in Metro Manila which not only cause terrible traffic gridlocks but could also disrupt fuel deliveries to gas stations.
The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) predicted that stronger typhoons and above average amounts of rainfall may be expected from June to September due to monsoon rains, tropical cyclones and other weather disturbances.
Oil companies during floods have no choice but to delay deliveries of fuel products to their stations. These delays happened in previous years of heavy flooding, triggering a supply squeeze, which we certainly don’t need at this time of already high fuel prices.
It would help a lot if oil companies don’t completely have to rely on trucks to deliver fuel from oil depots to gas stations.
This is why we hope the Supreme Court would finally rule in favor of the reopening of the 117-kilometer Batangas to Manila oil pipeline that supplies more than 50 percent of the petroleum products for Pandacan, which is considered as the largest and most important depot in the country.
The Pandacan depot supplies fuel in 459 stations in Metro Manila and about 1,800 gas stations in Regions 1 to 4. On a nationwide basis, the Pandacan depot also supplies 70 percent of the shipping industry’s needs; 90 percent of lubricant requirements; 75 percent of all aviation fuel needs; and 25 percent of the demand for chemicals.
A pipeline is not affected by weather disturbances like typhoons and floods.
The Department of Energy had previous recommended the reopening of the pipeline after pressure controlled tests confirmed its structural integrity and this could only be beneficial to the public as it can provide a reliable and stable supply of fuel products in a safe and efficient manner.