Thursday, May 8, 2008

It has become expensive to live here in Manila

I've been doing a lot of marketing in wet markets and grocery stores since I arrived. Not surprisingly, prices of even basics like onions, garlic, tomatoes, fish, pork, chicken and many others, even salt and pepper have skyrocketed. And I mean up there in the sky. I wonder how many of our poor folks are coping.

Vegetables are definitely more expensive than meat and fish. I haven't eaten sinigang for more than a month and so I cooked Sinigang sa Miso and, boy oh boy, the prices of salmon, mustard and other ingredients have gone up like anything. My sukis were apologetic but they say there is nothing they could do; they are just retailers. Hmmmm

My labandera, Aling Cherry, laments the fact that even the cost of dried fish and galunggong have become beyond their means. They do not eat vegetables anymore. They are forced to eat less and less every day. Her bigger concern is the schooling of her three children. Could they still afford to send them to finish at least high school?

When I left for South Africa, I took a cab and the fare went up to Php400 from my usual Php150, Sta. Mesa to NAIA. I asked and, like the prior week I've been taking taxis, the drivers told me that they have broken the seal and adjusted the meter so they could collect more and be able to buy gasoline. The Pasig-Quiapo/Divisoria jeepney drivers have for two years now raised their fare. For example, the V. Mapa-Crossing (exactly 4 kilometers) used to cost only Php7.50, until the jeepney drivers took the law into their own hands and started to charge Php10.00. At first, there were a lot of arguments, but eventually people need to go to work and go home, so the passengers simply paid the unlawful fare.

They have taken the law in their hands? Who else have been done this--take the law in their own hands—to cope with high prices? The loser—the commuter and the consumer who seemingly have no recourse but to pay outright or we don't get the products and services that we need. The apathetic observer—the concerned government entities that are supposed to implement the laws and protect the public.

What is happening to our country, Madame Arroyo? Where is that vaunted economic growth of just a few months ago? I just learned from a Manila Times article last Thursday that we produce 90% of our rice requirements and import only 10% under the National Food Authority. Huh? If that is the case do we need those numerous offices and hundreds of employees at NFA? What are they really doing? Why is this crisis upon us? Where is that 90% production? Do I hear the word "hoarders"? What are we doing about them? Why can't we catch them? Who is in-charge?
Sometime ago, I read in an internet news article that the culprit to the high cost of oil is not exactly the taxes that all governments impose on them, but more so the hoarders, the speculators who wait until prices are higher before they put out their products in the market.
What should we do? This spiraling costs of everything is worse than the worst natural calamities we've experienced. Because we know that the supplies are there, only they are being held for profit and that the people responsible for policing them are (I leave this sentence open for you to supply whatever adjective or expletive you want to add).

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In 2005, Time Magazine named Malcolm one of its 100 Most Influential People. He is the author of two New York Times #1 bestsellers. With his first book Malcolm embedded the concept of The Tipping Point in our everyday vocabulary and gave organizations new tools for understanding how and why change happens, and how to create positive epidemics of ideas and behavior.
In Blink he analyzes first impressions—the judgments we make unconsciously and instinctively—and he explores how we can master this important aspect of successful decision-making. He is currently a staff writer for the New Yorker magazine.

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