In the past year, the Filipino masses have witnessed (and suffered) firsthand the further deterioration of the Philippine economy. From depressed wages, ballooning food prices to persistent landlessness and maldevelopment especially in the countryside, the neoliberal economic policy of the Marcos Jr. regime stays true to form as an unequivocally anti-people scheme. Despite Marcos Jr.’s incessant projections of economic growth and recovery, the lives of the toiling masses tell us otherwise.
Marcos Jr.’s economic team composed of the IMF-WB (International Monetary Fund – World Bank) triumvirate of Benjamin Diokno, Felipe Medalla and Arsenio Balisacan, have demonstrated their utter disregard of the need to generate meaningful employment opportunities for Filipino workers. Although employment figures increased by 3.4 million to 4.8 million from July to August 2023, the jobs created were mostly in precarious work forcing Filipinos to make do with whatever job they can find, no matter how dangerous or cheaply paid. The latest labor force data suggests that the number of part-time workers jumped to nearly 15 million while full-time workers grew less than a million in the same period.
Add to this the fact that real wages have lagged terribly behind food prices in recent months. Current real wages in the National Capital Region (NCR) for example has declined 2% since 2020 while the price of regular-milled rice has skyrocketed 10% in the same period. Last August, GRP’s Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno even had the gall to declare before a Senate hearing that raising the minimum wage will be bad for the Philippine economy and cause it to “slow down.”
But what Diokno and his cohorts fail to realize is that economic growth under the Marcos Jr. administration has already been on a downward spiral. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has consistently slowed down from 7.7% in the third quarter of 2022 to 7.1% in the fourth quarter last year. In the first quarter of 2023, GDP dwindled to 6.4% and down further to 4.3% in the second quarter. This slowdown of economic activity is rooted in the continued depression of wages which in turn dampens household consumption historically accounting for three-fourths of the country’s economy.
Earlier this year the GRP decided to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) which particularly targeted Philippine agriculture. Part of RCEP’s conditions is for the GRP to remove its tariffs on sensitive agricultural products including rice. The Philippines’ backward and neglected agriculture is in no position to compete with imported commodities from countries which provide massive subsidies to their farmers. Presently, farmers are already deep in debt due to high costs of production. Farmgate prices are pulled down because of unimpeded importation, smuggling and manipulation of cartels in collusion with the ruling reactionary faction.
Price manipulation in turn further squeezes more profit from the hardships of the poorest Filipino families. This is on top of continuously increasing inflationary pressures that contribute to soaring prices. A recent survey suggests that the number of Filipino families who consider themselves poor have increased to 13.2 million in the past year. High food costs are putting crushing pressure on the majority of Filipino households who survive on low wages and incomes.
At the root of the Philippines’ deteriorating economy is the prolonged global economic crisis and the resulting strategic decline of US imperialism. With the rise of a multi-polar world order and continuous attempts to redivide the world comes the narrowing of spaces from which monopoly capitalism can derive superprofits. This crisis has expressed itself in the form of wars and proxy wars in various parts of the globe coupled with even more aggressive neoliberal offensives to pry open underdeveloped economies in the global south including the Philippines.
The chronic crisis force-fed to the Filipino toiling masses on a daily basis have caused Marcos Jr. and Sara Duterte to suffer significant drops in their approval ratings. Marcos Jr.’s approval ratings plummeted by 10% in October while Sara Duterte saw 11% drop in her ratings. These figures attest to the growing discontent and wrath of the Filipino people. As the ruling Marcos-Duterte clique continue to scramble for control over an increasingly smaller pool of money and squeeze more out of the people’s pockets to compensate for lesser spoils, they inevitably stoke the flames of civil war.