Workers’ plea to Duterte: Freeze price of basic commodities

Published January 25, 2021, 4:46 PM

by Leslie Ann Aquino

Amid the extraordinary increases in the prices of food and other staples, the Associated Labor Unions (ALU) on Monday urged President Duterte to order a price freeze on basic commodities.

A vegetable seller tends to a client at Paco Market. (ALI VICOY / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

The country’s largest workers’ union said basic commodities are now becoming beyond-the-reach of workers as their diminished incomes are outpaced by the relentless rise of commodity prices.

“Mr. President, after the battering of six typhoons and in the face of the continuing perils and tribulations of the Covid-19 pandemic, the survival situation of our brother and sister minimum wage earners (MWEs) and those unemployed and underemployed and their families are now at the brink,” ALU National Executive Vice President Gerard Seno said in a letter to Duterte.

“Millions of workers, since March 2020, were either on ‘No Work, No Pay’ hold-over arrangements, or compelled to undertake job-sharing or job-rotation agreements, or to be placed on no compensation furlough as employers extended the suspension of their business operations. Millions, in the worse case, were laid off. Truly, worker incomes took a severe battering, and what little savings they had, is long gone,” he added.
Seno said workers face the specter of going hungry as even the minimum daily wage of a worker in the National Capital Region of PHP 537 can hardly purchase a kilo of pork, including vegetables to meet the nutrition needs of a family of five. 

In the letter, the workers group urged Duterte to extend the effectivity of Presidential Proclamation 1081, issued in the wake of Typhoon Ulysses, indefinitely to freeze prizes of basic commodities.

It also urged the President to deploy more Diskwento Caravan and Kadiwa rolling stores to bring affordably-priced basic food commodities to communities and work sites.

The group said the Department of Agriculture, Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Justice, National Bureau of Immigration, and the Philippine National Police should also go after and to actively prosecute price gouging middlemen, traders and retailers and to shut down hoarders. 

ALU also recommended the provision of wage subsidy to workers, to fast-track shipment of basic commodities from Mindanao and to ensure price list is widely published among others 

“We believe that emergency, time-bound policies if implemented swiftly in genuine social partnership with employers and workers can go far in halting the escalation of prices in basic commodities,” said Seno.

“Please feel free to call upon us to be part of any effort to ensure that the prices of basic commodities are made affordable,” he added.