Research group IBON said that inflation may have been lower in November, but poor and low-income families still contended with high prices of common food items, especially rice. The group stressed that the government needs to focus on policies that will improve the purchasing power of Filipinos and boost local production to effectively lower food prices.
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, inflation decreased in November 2023 to 4.1% from 4.9% in October 2023. IBON pointed out however that higher food prices in the first phase of the month (November 1-5) in 2023 compared to the same period in 2022 burdened struggling households. The price of regular milled rice per kilo for instance averaged nationwide at Php46.96 or a 19% increase from around Php39.50 last year; well-milled rice at Php52.36 or up by 20% from around Php43.61; and tilapia at Php167.91 went up by 8% from around Php155.45. Other food items such as carrots, onions, and sugar remained expensive at Php153.47, Php180.50 and Php91.95 per kilo, respectively.
High food costs keep pressuring the majority of Filipino households surviving on low wages and incomes, said IBON. Even with recent wage hikes in some regions, the minimum wage generally falls short of the family living wage (FLW) or the amount needed by a family of five for their basic needs. The average daily nominal wage of Php428 nationwide is just one-third (36%) of the Php1,189 nationwide FLW. Also, halfway into 2023, 78% of families rated themselves as poor or borderline poor while 70% of households were recorded to be without any savings.
IBON said that in the short run the Marcos Jr administration needs to boost the amount and coverage of subsidies to help vulnerable families cope with high prices. Additionally, instead of prioritizing food importation, converting agricultural land for big businesses, and allowing scrupulous traders to dictate prices, the government can also aggressively support local food producers, procure their products and sell these at lower prices to influence market pricing. IBON stressed that high food prices will keep battering Filipinos until the government ensures a robust local food industry and takes control of pricing mechanisms.