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October 13 - 27, 2006

By MANNY SALONGA

“Isang kahig, isang tuka, ganiyan kaming mga dukha” – ito pa rin ang hinagpis ng milyun-milyong Pilipino. If a minimum wage earner considers himself dukha or mahirap, how much more does an unemployed Filipino feel? Mahirap pa sa daga? Truth is if you get to see how the “truly poor” Filipinos live, you’d even feel that rodents are much luckier and live even better lives for they can feed and live on just anything else whereas a very poor Filipino has to sweat it out and at most times, sweat it out in vain and worse, beg to survive and worst, die poor and hungry. Ano nga ba ang lagay ng marami nating kababayan sa Pinas? Isn’t it hyperbolic to say that even two minimum wage earners in a family of four will not suffice? Eksaherasyon nga lamang ba? Or saying that “Mahirap ang buhay sa Pinas” is just an alibi of people who don’t know how to budget well or who spend extravagantly or are one-day millionaires? Well, if you think that way, sorry to disappoint you. It must be difficult

to let it sink in, but it’s true that even if a couple earns P15,000 a month most especially when they live in a key city like Manila, bitin pa rin kaya nga mas tama yatang sabihing, “MARAMING KAHIG, ISANG TUKA”. Kaya ang kalakaran sa maraming pamilyang Pilipino, if breadwinners can’t make ends meet, utang ang sagot. To many, the trend is when there’s no more budget days before the next paycheck, uutang muna and it just becomes a cycle – utang – bayad – utang uli. Though humiliating, pinapatulan na talaga ng mga tao because of their dire situation. Nakakalungkot pa, sometimes hindi pa naipagtatrabaho, naiuutang na. Tanong mo: Why does it happen? Let me give you an example. Let’s just put the income of a couple at P15,000 a month. With all the regular deductions – SSS, tax, PAG-IBIG, Philhealth, they get to take home say, P13,000. Where does this money go? House rental (suwerte kung sariling bahay at lupa) is pegged at at least P3,000, electric bill at P1,000, water bill at P200, two school-aged children’s allowance at P800, the couple’s allowance at P4,000, P2,000 for each (super-tipid na ‘yun, kadalasan ay para sa pamasahe lang at with packed lunch na rin). With roughly P4,000 remaining, which is actually kulang, will come the daily food expenses and other basic necessities. Ang iba, sobrang paghihigpit na ng sinturon para mapagkasya and along with this are sacrifices like katitipid nila, their children do not get the recommended daily intake, minus leisure and entertainment na rin at siguro Pasko na lang nakakbili ng bagong damit at sapatos. They can’t even save up a few hundreds for emergency needs or health management purposes. To let you understand better, here’s the statistics. By the second half of the year, above 10 million Filipinos were either out of work or were not working enough to live just right. These millions of jobless Filipinos comprise of around five million who are totally unemployed and about six million underemployed. This gives us a 14% unemployment rate – the toughest in 50 years. The disparity between daily minimum wage and the basic daily requirement has grown even bigger. Two years ago, the daily cost of living in the National Capital Region (NCR) rose to P594 from P383.30 in national average. A family of six in Metro Manila needs a monthly income of almost P18,000, but the minimum wage earner could only come up with roughly P7,000 every month. This tells us na hindi talaga mapagkakasya ng mga minimum wage earners throughout the country ang ganitong kita. Sa NCR nga, kahit tatlo pa ang minimum wage earners, they still find it painfully difficult to let a family of six have what’s sufficient. Now, you haven’t read or heard the worst yet. Sa Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), strictly and statistically speaking, ang anim katao sa isang pamilya ay nangangailangan ng walong minimum wage earners to have a decent living, and when we say “decent” eh it actually means “just enough” . Just imagine that, a family of six would need tow more earners para mabuhay nang maayos. Ano ba ang magagawa mo sa ganitong sitwasyon? The fact is the region has the lowest minimum wage rate frozen into a little above a hundred – the lowest in our country. Irony of ironies – they have the lowest minimum wage rate but they require the highest family living wage, according to the National Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC). Within the first quarter of 2004, an ARMM’s family of six required almost P750 or more than P22,000 to meet the basic necessities. This now leads us to the conclusion that a family of six in ARMM needs to have eight wage earners primarily because of the scenario that one wage earner is able to contribute only P3000 every month. If there are only six wage earners, eh di maliwanag na kulang talaga. What more if there are only two wage earners and the rest are children? Parang it’s going to crush your brain if you are to think how they are going to survive. Maliwanag pa sa sikat ng araw that the income earned by an average Filipino family today ay halos wala nang saysay and even way shorter than what even the World Bank estimates as the poverty threshold: $1 a day per individual or, in our country’s standards, almost P400 a day for a family of six. If you were there and were in these people’s shoes, ano kayang iisipin, mararamdaman at gagawin mo?


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