ESPRESSO MORNINGS

By Joe Zaldarriaga

The fourth quarter of the year is what most Filipinos usually look forward to especially since the Philippines has the longest Christmas season, the most important holiday to many Filipinos.

However, what we anticipate as a joyful Christmas will hopefully not be a bleak one, following the destruction caused by Severe Tropical Storm Paeng that claimed hundreds of lives and displaced almost a million Filipinos.

It doesn’t help as well that manufacturing companies are asking the government to raise prices on a variety of products prior to the Christmas holidays.

Earlier last month, the Philippine Association of Meat Processors Inc. (PAMPI) asked the Department of Trade and Industry for an increase in the suggested retail price (SRP) of meat products after production costs went up by over 20 percent this year as a result of the higher cost of imported mechanically deboned meat, peso depreciation, and higher oil prices.

The group said it was hoping to recover merely 10 percent of the additional production cost through the new SRP. If approved, this will affect the prices of hotdogs, sausages, and other processed meat products sold in the market.

Local bakers, too, have requested a price increase for two of its bread products -- Pinoy Tasty and Pinoy Pandesal -- by up to PHP4 due to the rising cost of raw materials. According to a news report quoting Philippine Baking Industry Group (PhilBaking) President Jerry Lao, there was no more incentive for the bakers group to keep making the two bread products amid the rising production costs, thus the petition.

Asosasyon ng Panaderong Pilipino President Lucito Chavez supported the petition. With Pinoy Tasty and Pinoy Pandesal prices the barometer of consumers, if prices of these products can increase, then local community bakers will most likely follow suit.

According to the DTI, even manufacturers of sardines, canned meat, coffee, and evaporated milk also requested between 50 centavos to five pesos in price increases as per news reports.

These increases in various commodities may dampen the Christmas celebration but the spirit of having a festive and joyful one will always prevail over the challenges we face.

Tough decisions will have to be made in the coming weeks, as the government weighs in on the petition of these manufacturers who were severely affected by macroeconomic factors while also safeguarding consumers from the impact of food inflation.

With the recent destruction in many parts of the country by Paeng, higher prices for the holiday season do not seem to bode well for the poor families and those that were displaced by the typhoon, not to mention it may contribute to further increase in inflation.

However, balancing consumer welfare with business sustainability should also be considered, after all, businesses are the lifeblood of the economy. This is the reason why the DTI must come up with a decision that balances both the interest of businesses and consumers.

Moving forward, the country can also benefit from the Marcos Jr. administration’s mandate on boosting domestic production while managing importation. It is precisely this balancing act that will spell the difference between languishing further in economic difficulty or recovering faster in pushing towards a more sustainable growth agenda.

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in the foregoing article are solely the author’s and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the Philippine News Agency (PNA) or any other office under the Office of the Press Secretary.

About the Columnist

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Joe Zaldarriaga is a veteran, award-winning communicator immersed in public service within and beyond the energy sector. He has more than 30 years of experience serving the country’s biggest electric distribution utility and is involved in a number of public service functions, as member of various committees on public safety, power supply security and electrification. Concurrently, he is a prominent figure in the Philippine communications industry, as Chairman and Past President of the US-based International Association of Business Communicators Philippines (IABC PH). He is also an awardee of the University of Manila’s Medallion of Honor (Dr. Mariano V. delos Santos Memorial) and a Scroll of Commendation, a testament to his celebrated years in public service exemplified by outstanding communications.

Joe also shares his opinion and outlook on relevant national and consumer issues as a columnist in several prominent publications and is now venturing into new media via hosting a new vlog called Cup of Joe. Previously, Joe was a reporter and desk editor of a Broadcasting Company and the former auditor of the Defense Press Corps of the Philippines. A true green Lasalian, he finished with a degree in Asian Studies specializing in the Japan Studies program at De La Salle University, Manila, where he also spent his entire education.