Manila, Jan. 21, 2003 (Tribune) - President Arroyo brought misery to the lives of Filipinos last year, according to a report of IBON Foundation Inc.

The study showed the daily cost of living increased further in 2002, while the income of most Filipinos remained stagnant.

IBON estimates that a family of six in Metro Manila, as of December 2002, needs P538.18 a day to be able to live decently. This does not differ significantly from the government's own estimate of P533 as of September 2002.

"Both estimates show the current minimum wage levels in Metro Manila (which remained depressed at P250 per day) could not even meet half of the decent living standards," Antonio Tujan Jr., research director of IBON Foundation Inc., said.

According to him, the situation is even worse in the countryside where three out of four poor Filipinos live.

"While IBON estimates show that an ordinary family based in an agricultural area needs at least P403.34 to live decently, a palay farmer only earns a meager P10.36 daily per hectare, while an ordinary coconut farmer only earns a miserable P4.69 daily per hectare, and a small hog farmer, about P15 daily per pig," he added.

The Ibon Foundation director said unemployment also worsened last year, which implies that the expansion in the economy did not provide enough employment opportunities for the working class.

"While the Philippines posted one of the fastest growths in GDP in Southeast Asia, the country also had the biggest unemployment rate in the region, pegged at 10.2 percent as of October 2002," Tujan said.

He noted in the industry sector, at least 140,000 jobs were lost last year. On the contrary, employment in the services sector grew by 1.14 million. This suggests that a huge number of industrial workers were absorbed by the services sector, a significant portion of which are actually own-account and unpaid family workers who were forced to rely on their own due to the government's failure to provide gainful and productive employment.

"Many of them become sidewalk vendors who, under the Arroyo administration, do not only have to contend with poverty and low-income, but also with Metro Manila Development Authority Chairman and now also Department of Public Works and Highways Secretary Bayani Fernando," Tujan said.

With the deteriorating employment situation, he also stressed more and more Filipinos are forced to leave the country and their families to earn a living abroad.

IBON records showed around 2,383 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) were deployed everyday last year, a figure much higher than the 1,813 daily deployment in 2001.

Tujan said a recent phenomenon in labor migration is the surge in demand for caregivers and nurses abroad.

"Many young and highly educated Filipino professionals such as nurses, doctors, teachers, accountants, engineers, to name a few are forced to accept low-end jobs in highly industrialized countries," he added.

The IBON Foundation report also said jobless, homeless, hungry and deprived of an opportunity to live a decent life, many Filipinos turn to illegal activities to survive despite the government's tough stance against criminality.

"While the Philippine National Police (PNP) boasts that kidnap-for-ransom cases dropped by 32 percent as of October last year, with cases in Metro Manila declining by 43 percent, there is actually an increasing number of petty crimes induced by poverty," Tujan said.

IBON records showed theft and robbery cases, which usually increase in periods of severe economic difficulties, jumped by 36 percent in the first seven months of 2002.

At least 29 cases of theft happened everyday last year, compared to 21 in 2001. On the other hand, at least 22 incidents of robbery were reported daily in 2002, compared to 16 two years ago.

Latest PNP reports also showed crime incidence in Metro Manila actually increased by 47 percent in the first 11 months of 2002 compared to the same period in 2001.

All rights reserved