Marcos claims Philippines saw highest economic growth rate in 46 years
Updated: Jul 28
But regular wage earners say they still can't make both ends meet
By Jinky Jorgio
Manila— Despite weak global prospects, the Philippine economy posted a 7.6 percent growth in 2022— the highest growth rate in 46 years, according to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
"For the first quarter of this year, our growth has registered at 6.4 percent. It remains within our target of 6 to 7 percent for 2023. We are still considered to be among the fastest-growing economies in the Asian region and in the world," Marcos said during his second state of the nation address on July 24.
During his speech, which ran for an hour and 11 minutes, the 17th Philippine president claimed his administration is making its mark despite global challenges such as the ongoing war in Ukraine and threat of the Covid 19, which is still very much around.
But regular wage earners said Marcos' optimistic assessment of the country's economy is not reflected in the quality of lives of the common people.
“Maybe the lives of the president and his followers are improving but not the lowly workers who have to work two jobs to ensure their families will have at least a meal for the day,” said Vilma Santosano, an activist.
Outside the Philippine Congress where Marcos delivered his address, labor activists held a rally calling on the government to address poverty, human rights and employment crisis.
Santosano said she found it odd that the president claimed the quality of life in the country has been improving when the workers are still fighting for employment stability and higher pay. She said most households can’t make ends meet with current wage rates.
Gracia Adique, 42, a house helper, works in Manila to support her family in the province.
"The prices of goods are so high. Even if I get a pay raise, it is not still not enough to send my children to school. Sometimes, their meals are not complete," Adique said.
Carlos Santos a janitor working at a private.school, said he voted for Marcos because he promised that the price of rice would drop to 20 pesos per kilo once he got elected. But the promise remained just a promise, he said.
"I can buy 32 pesos per kilo of rice only from the (National Food Authority), but the quality seems stale," Santos said. "So I'm forced to buy from regular stores at 45 pesos per kilo so we can eat. Most of the time, rice is the only thing on our table."
As for tourism, Marcos said the industry is quickly recovering.
“From January to June this year, we have received 3 million international visitors. This number is already 62 percent of our 4.8-million target for the entire year,” he said.
Marcos also discussed local employment, labor export, and the revitalization of tourism.
“Our tourism has always been a reliable pillar of our economic growth through the years, providing livelihood to more than 5 million of our citizens. Because of the reopening of the economy, and the phenomenon of ‘revenge travel,’ this sector is headed for a great rebound,” he added.
With regard to the employment situation, Marcos said, “The bane of the mismatch between jobs and skills among our workforce is being rectified through strengthened government-industry-labor-academe partnerships, and the continuous reskilling and upskilling training programs that we have put before our workforce."
Taking a cue from former President Rodrigo Duterte’s infrastructure program called “Build Build Build,” Marcos said he wants to “Build Better More.”
He said this program is not meant to continue the projects of the past administration but to build “new and better” projects.
Marcos said flagship projects cover investments in the areas of physical connectivity, water resources, agriculture, health, digital connectivity and energy.
He added that the physical connectivity infrastructure such as roads, bridges, seaports, airports and mass transport accounts for 83 percent of the program.
“As of June this year, we have constructed, maintained, and upgraded more than 4,000 kilometers of roads and around 500 bridges across the country. Crucial airport and port development projects across the country have also been completed, including Cebu’s Pier 88 smart port, and the new passenger terminal buildings of Clark Airport and the Port of Calapan,” he said.
“We initiated several railway projects, with a total length of more than 1,000 kilometers,” he added. “We are opening up all gateways to mobilize goods and services at less cost and in less time, and ultimately, to drive the economy."
Santosano said Marcos is the mirror of his father, the deposed dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr., who made announcements without concrete plans for addressing the nation's peace situation and the root cause of insurgence.
“Like his father, he focused on infrastructure, of buildings but no concrete plans to help the poor,” Santosano said.
She said common citizens hoped to hear Marcos discuss human rights, wage increases and workers’ protection from labor abuses.
She criticized Marcos Jr.’s claim that “the lives of the Filipinos are improving.”
“How are our lives improving? The cost of food and goods is rising almost every day. He promised a P20 per kilo of rice during his campaign, but the cheapest rice cost P45 per kilo in the market, and P38 in the government rolling stores.”.
Sen. Jinggoy Estrada said the president’s address was “optimistic and resolute.”
Estrada, chair of the Senate labor and employment committee, said he was pleased to hear the president's emphasis on improving employment opportunities for Filipinos and creating a better working environment for overseas Filipino workers.
“Bolstering employment opportunities is essential for driving economic growth and reducing poverty in the country,” Estrada said.
Estrada said he was pleased that Marcos is taking part in a dialogue for a peaceful resolution to defend the security of the nation.