By Antonio Manaytay
Food is everywhere with the mushrooming of big fast-food chains in Ipil, the capital town of Zamboanga Sibugay. It is good news. But it does not mean a thing to a tricycle driver.
“Daghang pagkaon lagi apan dili man pud mi kapalit (Lots of food but we can’t buy),” said Mario, a tricycle driver.
Pointing to newly-opened fast food stores in downtown Ipil, Mario said in dialect, “It means nothing to us.”
He agreed the presence of these big fast-food stores gives Ipil the “look of a city.”
“But what city they are talking about when people like us don’t have money in our pockets,” he wryly said.
Daily, Mario earned an average of P200, which roughly translates into P6,000 a month.
He has two children aged five- and seven-year-old. Surviving daily with the skyrocketing of the prices of basic commodities is a “miracle” for his family.
“Miracle. That’s how I call it. It is really hard,” he said.
The government has good news to tell.
A family of five needs only an income of P7,528 a month to enjoy “no-frills” meal, said Rosalinda Bautista, deputy statistician of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).
Based on this computation, the minimum wage of P316 in the Zamboanga Peninsula is already a fortune.
Workers in the region know of the law-mandated minimum daily wage. But the problem is the “minimum daily wage” every ordinary worker knew of is different.
For Mark, a staff of a hotel in Ipil, the minimum wage is P160.
“They say it is P316 but what I know is I am paid P160 for a day’s work,” he said in dialect.
It is a better picture for Jun, a gas attendant. His daily wage is P250 per day.
Imelda Gatinao, former provincial director of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), said the problem in implementing the minimum wage is enforcement. Gatinao is currently the Assistant Regional Director of DOLE 9.
Their office, she said, regularly conducts inspections. The problem lies with the employees.
There are reports of non-compliance to the minimum wage but the absence of formal complaints put the DOLE at a bind.
The workers themselves have to come forward and file complaints, she urged.
View from the ground
Minimum wage or not does not make sense to Cesar, who works for a local pizza parlor.
The opening of a “more classy pizza” recently had threatened their jobs. He earns P5,000 a month in a local pizza store.
“Five thousand pesos a month is already a big help to tide over the need of my family,” he intimated, resigned to the reality that the minimum wage is only on the paper.
But the coming of the big fast-food chains to town could change his life. His employer had already told them the store may fold up anytime next year.
Welcome to Ipil
While ordinary people wallow in poverty the government has a different take.
A Facebook page, Ipil Safe Ipil Strong, congratulates a pizza company. “Your presence of your brand here in the municipality is a manifestation of our booming economy,” it says.
More than a fifth of the town’s population lives below the poverty line, according to a census in 2015. In 2018, the municipality had posted a locally-generated income in the amount of P90 million.
In another post, it welcomed the opening of the second branch of a fast-food giant.
It is understandable. Ipil Mayor Anamel Olegario thinks it is not her job to solve the poverty of the people.
In a forum last year, the mayor said it is not her fault if the people are poor. Definitely, it is not on a personal capacity. For people occupying a public office, the story is different. Two of the major mandates of a local government are poverty alleviation and socio-economic development.
Eating in these fast food stores is what the PSA may have referred to as “frills.” Meaning, the average earners in the private sector and informal economy need not go to these stores.
Former Partylist representative Ariel Casilao swiped at the economic managers of the government.
Saying that the poor can make do with what they are earning now is proof that the government “neglects the poor by the very denial of their poverty.”
Partylist representative Carlos Zarate had a challenge for these officials: Why not try to live off a P71 budget a day? (Mindanao Sun/ Featured Image: Roseller Briones/FB)
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