The government doesn’t classify you as poor if you spend PHP18.62 (US$0.33) for a meal, and people are angry

With the Philippines besieged by multiple price hikes on staple goods such as onions, sugar, and even bread, netizens are up in arms over the fact that the government thinks people are not “food-poor” if they can afford to spend PHP18.62 (US$0.33) for a meal.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) released its latest report on poverty statistics earlier this month. It found that the country’s poverty rate rose to 18.1 percent in 2021, translating to nearly 20 million Filipinos who are considered poor as they live below the poverty threshold of PHP12,030 (US$213) in monthly income for a family of five.

The statistics agency reiterated that the monthly food budget threshold for a family of five was PHP8,379 (US$149). The Philippine Daily Inquirer calculated this to equate to a daily budget of PHP18.62 for each meal — meaning if you can spend that much on a single meal, you are not considered poor.

The latest report by the Department of Agriculture shows that a kilogram of regular milled rice is priced at PHP38; well-milled rice is PHP40; premium rice at PHP45; and special rice at PHP50 as of August 22. Local red onions are being sold at PHP140 a kilogram, while 350 milliliters of palm oil, typically used for cooking, is at PHP40. 

Meanwhile, community bakers selling pan de sal, a small piece of round bread considered a Filipino breakfast staple, have raised their prices to between PHP2 and PHP5 a piece, depending on the size.

Many online reacted to news of the PHP18.62 per meal threshold with disbelief. One user asked, “What? So if I spend PHP10 on a small fried egg, PHP6 for three pieces of pandesal, and PHP10 on instant coffee, I would be considered rich?!” 

“This is the way our government fights poverty, by declaring a large chunk of the population no longer poor just because they spend almost PHP20 per meal. How nice to be called “not poor” even when you’re starving,” another commented.

“What can that amount buy? Let those who make that statistic try by themselves if they would confirm that meager amount,” one user wrote.

“A cup of rice in Jollibee is 33 pesos. In carinderias (local eateries), probably 15 pesos. Can you buy worth 3 pesos of salt to go with your rice? So if you answer yes, you are not considered poor?” asked another.

Fast-food chains and manufacturers have also felt the brunt of this wave of ingredient price hikes — recently, Burger King announced that they would not serve onions with their burgers due to shortages, while the country’s top soda makers — Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and RC Cola — all confirmed they were experiencing sugar supply woes.

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