By Ellalyn De Vera Ruiz and Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Amid the soaring prices of basic consumer goods, more Filipinos are now expressing concern at the rising inflation, which they said, must be immediately addressed by the Duterte administration.
This is one of the key findings in the Pulse Asia’s Ulatng Bayan survey conducted last Sept. 1-7 among 1,800 respondents.
In the survey, 63 percent of Filipinos said inflation is an issue that the Duterte administration must immediately address. It is also the predominant opinion in all geographic areas and socio-economic classes (53 to 66 percent and 52 to 65 percent, respectively).
Inflation ‘topples’ Cha-cha
Addressing the people’s sentiment, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the administration’s push for a federal charter will be taking the backseat for now in order for the government to focus on devising measures to address the rising inflation.
In his Thursday press briefing, Roque said that everything would have to be sideline in order for the government to address the rising price of daily commodities.
“Well of course, right now the foremost priority of the administration is fighting inflation. So everything is sidelined now dahil hindi naman natin talaga inaasahan ‘yung pagtaas bigla ng presyo ng krudo at ng petrolyo (because we did not expect the sudden increase in the price of crude and petroleum),” he said.
“I would say that even the administration acknowledges na mas importante ng harapin ‘yung problemana mas malapit sa sikmura ng taumbayan (that it is more important to address the problems concerning the stomachs of the people),” he added.
Not just sleeping
Roque assured that the administration, particularly President Duterte, is not just sleeping on the issue and is doing everything it can to address the issue on inflation which surged to 6.4 percent last month.
“We noticed that the people are really concerned about the rising prices of goods. Like what we said, we recognize the issue and we assure that the President is not just sleeping on it,” he said.
Roque mentioned the various steps President Duterte has taken, including the issuance of executive and administrative orders, this past month to address the rising inflation.
These include bringing back the National Food Authority (NFA) to the Department of Agriculture (DA), and removing non-tariff barriers and streamlining procedures on the importation of agricultural products.
“We are confident that the effects of these measures will take effect soon,” he said, adding that he noticed that price of goods in the local markets have substantially decreased.
“The entire economic team, including the DA and other departments, is active in finding a solution to the rising prices of goods,” he added.
Meanwhile, 50 percent consider the need to increase the pay of workers as an urgent national concern – a sentiment expressed by majorities in Metro Manila (55 percent), Visayas (59 percent), and upper-to-middle Class ABC (52 percent).
Other urgent national concerns include poverty reduction (32 percent), job creation (30 percent), fighting graft and corruption in government (26 percent), combatting criminality (23 percent), promoting peace (14 percent), protecting the environment (13 percent), reducing the amount of taxes paid by citizens (12 percent), and enforcing the rule of law (11 percent).
In the survey, Filipinos were least concerned about the welfare of overseas Filipino workers (6 percent), rapid population growth (6 percent), terrorism (5 percent), national territorial integrity (5 percent), and charter change (3 percent).
None of these issues were considered urgent by a majority across geographic areas and socio-economic groupings.
Pulse Asia pointed out that Filipinos’ sense of urgency as far as the 15 national issues included in the survey were concerned is practically constant during the period June to September 2018.
The only notable changes were the increase in the level of concern regarding inflation (+12 percentage points) and the decline in the level of concern about job creation (-9 percentage points).
It added that year-on-year, public concern became more pronounced when it comes to such issues as workers’ pay (+8 percentage points) and inflation (+13 percentage points), while it eased in relation to the issues of peace (-7 percentage points) and criminality (-13 percentage points).
Majority approval rating
Also during the same survey period, Pulse Asia found that although the Duterte administration enjoyed majority approval ratings on 10 out of the 12 issues on which its performance is evaluated in this survey, its approval ratings declined across all 12 issues during the period June to September 2018.
Filipinos gave the national administration majority approval scores for its efforts to fight criminality (83 percent), protect the welfare of overseas Filipino workers (75 percent), respond to the needs of areas affected by calamities (74 percent), fight corruption (71 percent), enforce the rule of law (69 percent), promote peace (69 percent), protect the environment (65 percent), defend national territorial integrity (56 percent), create more jobs (56 percent), and increase the pay of workers (53 percent).
The Duterte administration got 39 percent approval rating in its anti-poverty initiatives.
Filipinos were least appreciative of the Duterte administration’s handling of the problem of soaring prices of basic commodities (27 percent), and are least critical of its work in the areas of fighting criminality, protecting the welfare of overseas Filipino workers, and responding to the needs of calamity-hit areas (all at 3 percent).
Public appreciation for the performance of the Duterte administration eased across all 12 issues on which it is performance-rated in the present survey.
The most marked decline is recorded on the issue of poverty reduction (-16 percentage points), while the least pronounced one occurred on the issue of criminality and peace (both at -5 percentage points).
With regard to the top urgent national concerns of Filipinos, such as inflation and workers’ pay, the Duterte administration’s approval scores decreased by 14 percentage points.
Disapproval for the work done by the national administration becomes more pronounced on the issues of creating more jobs (+5 percentage points), fighting corruption in government (+6 percentage points), increasing the pay of workers (+10 percentage points), reducing poverty (+16 percentage points), and controlling inflation (+22 percentage points).
Federalism will have its time
While the administration is now zeroing in on addressing inflation, Roque assured that the administration has not abandoned its push for a federal government and is confident that it will again surface.
“We are not abandoning federalism. We will get there,” he said.
“But we know that there needs to be more discussions, studies, and information dissemination to be done for federalism,” he added.
Roque also recognized that the Congress is busy deliberating the 2019 national budget and has no time to talk about federalism for now.