‘INFLATION WOES’: Ilonggo consumers still struggle despite January slowdown

The slight slowdown in the increase in prices of goods last month hardly eased the pressures felt by consumers in past months. (LEEO photo)

By John Noel E. Herrera 

Inflation rate, or the increase in prices of goods and services, in Western Visayas slowed down between December 2022 and January 2023 but Ilonggo consumers are still struggling.

Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) released on Feb 7, 2023 indicated that inflation in the region slowed down by 0.2 percent, from 10.5 in December 2022 to 10.3 percent in January 2023.

But several consumers said that the slight decrease could not even be felt in the local markets or in their daily lives, as prices of basic commodities and fare rates remain high.

“Ivy”, a nurse from Igbaras, Iloilo, said that her salary as a newly hired nurse in a private hospital was only enough for her room rental in the city, food, and transportation, as almost everything is getting expensive.

“Nag-nubo gali inflation rate? Kay daw hindi man mabatyagan, sa tuod lang. Ang sweldo daw enough na lang gid sa boarding house, pagkaon, kag plete nga mahal-mahal man, daw wara ron ti tigana gid nga for savings,” Ivy said.

Elena Demayo, 48 years old, and a mother of four, also expressed a similar struggle saying that prices of goods had continuously increased since the COVID-19 pandemic happened.

“Umpisa nag pandemic, sige na saka ang mga presyo, asta subong nga daw wala na pandemic, wala man ganaog, sige man saka. Budlay gid katama kay apat bala estudyante mo kag sa balon pa lang nanda, tama na gid ka kulang,” Demayo said.

Another individual also said that despite the previous increase in salaries, the public continuously calls for a wage hike as the P450 minimum wage is already not enough due to the soaring prices of basic commodities and services.

“Gin-sakaan gid man nila ang minimum wage sang ligad, pero daw dugay naman gid kag ang sweldo halos sa mga balaklon na lang gid nagatupa, daw kulang pa gani. Amu na damo naman may gusto nga tani pasakaon man ang sweldo,” according to Bryan”, a 37-year-old restaurant employee said.

Meanwhile, PSA-6 also acknowledged the fact that the purchasing power of the Philippine Peso dwindled despite the slower inflation rate, as P1 in 2018 was only equivalent to P0.81 in January 2023.

This also meant that the actual value of P1,000 in the region five years ago is only worth P810 at present and the depreciation of the value of the peso could either prompt a buyer to buy less or look for a cheaper alternative.

“If you bought something in the past few months or years, you can no longer buy the same quantities for the same price because of inflation. One of the things there is that if you want to buy it like you did then, you have to increase the money spent, or if you want to spend the same amount, you will have to compromise by buying less or buying another cheaper variant,” PSA-6 Statistical Specialist II Miguel Gallego said.

Labor group Partido Manggagawa (PM) also called for a “new round of wage hikes for consumers to recover the lost purchasing power of workers not just in Western Visayas but in the whole country due to the surge in inflation.”

“The P450 minimum wage in Iloilo is actually just worth P363 by January 2023. P87 has been shaved off the real value of the minimum wage. Meaning, not only has the P55 minimum wage hike in June 2022 been effectively wiped out by runaway inflation, workers’ real wages have pushed back even further,” PM-Iloilo coordinator Mario Andon said.

Data from PSA also showed that the commodity group of Housing, Water, Electricity, Gas, and Other Fuels posted the biggest jump of 0.9 percent, from 14.2 percent in December 2022 to 15.1 percent in January 2023.

Transport commodities also remained high at 14.7 percent in January, while other commodity groups, like Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco, Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages, Restaurants and Accommodation Services, Recreation, Sport, and Culture, and Culture and Footwear experienced a slight decrease in their latest inflation rates.

Despite the slight decrease in the inflation rate between December 2022 and January 2023, the Western Visayas also still has the highest rate in the Philippines, even higher compared to the cumulative inflation rate in areas outside the National Capital Region (NCR)