MANILA - If P1 million was the cost of just one dinner in New York for politicians, just how far can the same amount go for ordinary citizens?
A million pesos now can buy 40,000 kilos of rice worth P25 per kilo, and 16,000 packs of instant noodles, a check at wet market prices showed.
In 2006, the same amount could have fed around 37,000 people for one day, provided that each person would spend P27 for 3 decent meals, data from the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) showed.
An annual income of P1 million will also make a Filipino family part of the middle class in 2006. According to the NSCB, a Filipino middle class family in 2006 has yearly earnings between P246,109 and P2,000,072.
The NSCB uses 2006 as its reference year since it based this on the Family Income and Expenditures Survey, which is conducted every 3 years.
The Philippines had fairly decent economic figures in 2006, led by a gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 5.4%, an average unemployment rate of 7.9%, $3.2 billion in average monthly export earnings, and $4.29 billion in average import earnings.
But in 2008, prices of staple food, like rice and wheat, became less affordable as these reached record highs. In August of the same year, inflation hit 12.5%--the highest in 17 years. Global oil prices also skyrocketed last year to $147 a barrel--a far cry from current levels that's about half of it.
Thus, the 27.6 million Filipinos suffering from poverty in 2006 may have likely increased further, according to NSCB Director Lina Castro.
In a recent special report of abs-cbnnews.com/Newsbreak, worsening poverty rates and poor quality of available jobs led to worsening hunger. (Read: Food from every table? Far from it).
According to surveys by Social Weather Stations (SWS), the number of respondents that suffered from involuntary hunger at least once in the past 3 months has remained at double-digits since June 2004. Self-rated hunger peaked in November 2008 with 23.7%. The latest survey conducted in February 2009 pegged hunger levels at 15.5%.
Against other countries, Philippines’ global hunger ranking was as alarming. According to international research organization Gallup International, the Philippines ranked 5th among 56 countries.
The cost of a lavish dinner could have also sent some 138 children to school, according to international organization World Vision.
The group, which helps poverty-stricken countries like the Philippines, said that a million pesos could also construct 3 schoolbuildings in the country.
Early this week, a New York Post online news article said President Arroyo and her entourage wined and dined at French restaurant Le Cirque, pushing the dinner tab up to $20,000 or almost one million in Philippine pesos (P955,400).
Online reports said Mrs. Arroyo and her group allegedly ordered 11 bottles of Krug champagne priced at $510 per bottle, Osetra caviar ($1,400 for 5 ounces), a "Chef's Tasting Menu" or wine paired with a dish for $4,500 for 25 orders, and a "three-course Chef's Seasonal Menu" worth $1,450 for 25 orders.
Malacanang, however, said that the online report was a "gross exaggeration," adding that the dinner was "very simple" and did not reach $20,000.
According to Press Secretary Cerge Remonde, "not a single centavo of taxpayers' money" was used to pay for the meal, saying that it was Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez who hosted and paid for the group's dinner. With a report from Zen Hernandez, ABS-CBN News