Salaries, Living Costs, Divorce & Birth Control

Saturday, January 09, 2010

I thought it might be interesting to show people how much Philippines Government officials make in salary. Private sector salaries are probably a lot less. Convert to US Dollars at roughly 46 pesos and the UK Pound at 74.
Actually the list covers a wide range of roles from the most junior to the most senior. I now understand why Gina, her sister and so many Filipinos choose to become OFWs. For instance, Filipinos constitute about a third of the world’s commercial sailors. Though a qualified teacher, Gina’s sister earns three times as much in Hong Kong as a domestic help than she would as a teacher in the Philippines. Maybe it also explains why under the table payments have always been popular. But I cannot help but wonder how people survive on such low incomes when items like electricity are so expensive. I thought it was a bargain that our rented house costs us pesos 75,000 for 12 months. I think differently now!
Conversely, if you ignore luxuries, many items needed for everyday living are cheap by UK standards. It really depends on what you think you need. We only have pension income these days so we have to be careful to work within a budget each month, but at least our basic needs are covered. We buy a kaban of rice (50 kilo sack) which seems to last us forever and soon we will be self-sufficient from our own lot. We buy fruit, vegetables and meat from the wet market and do a weekly shop in NE or Cheers. Even that we have cut down on to avoid waste. We treat ourselves to pandesal every other day but at 2 pesos a roll even that is inexpensive. We don’t have cable so only have to buy load for our mobile phones and eventually will be billed by PLDT for the landline and telephone. At the new house we won’t have a landline as the service has not yet been extended to that area.
Our electricity bill is around pesos 2,500 a month and our water bill comes in at around pesos 600. Electricity here is comparatively expensive because the Philippines produces most of it from imported oil. There is some hydro-electric power but as yet no major projects to reduce the dependency on imported oil. I guess it depends on the level of public borrowing, but a loan from the IMF to create more alternative sources of power (HEP and even thermal energy given that we sit on the ring of fire) would seem a good idea, especially in view of the apparent reluctance to introduce any kind of programme to slow population growth.
We run one 1.5 HP air conditioning unit only when we have to. We are not on mains water at the new house so will rely on free water from the deep well which it appears is very clean. We will have ACUs in several rooms in the new house but do not plan to use them more than absolutely necessary, hence the decision to have styrofoam insulation in all external walls, double glazing for the windows and tiled floors. We want the house to be as economic to run as possible.
Divorce is illegal in the Philippines but I have encountered many examples of couples who have separated or have a live-in partner to whom they are not married. The life of the OFW means that many wifes or husbands are working overseas for long periods separated from their partners and their children. This inevitably puts a great strain on even the strongest relationship. Some children are fortunate to grow up within a complete family unit while others find themselves raised by a single parent, or even by another relative, if both parents are working overseas. Given the frequent disfunctional family life, it is all the more remarkable that Filipinos have such a happy disposition and a positive outlook on life.
We visited an old friend of Gina’s today and I almost put my foot in it when I asked her if she had a partner in Canada where she is now working. It transpires that she’s already married (15 years now), has children who live with her mother-in-law in Santiago, but the husband, who reputedly used to beat her up, now lives with another woman. She intends to apply for Canadian citizenship soon and and the chidren will then join her in Canada. Yet another sad story but hopefully one with a happy ending.
So I am learning that although clear lines are drawn by the Catholic Church here, couples still split up, live with another partner, have children by other relationships etc. The power of the church is such that any move to legalise divorce is unlikely simply because of the political power the church wields in the Philippines but it seems equally unlikely to curb its citizens finding other ways to terminate unhappy relationships and seek newer, happier ones.
In the modern world the church has often struggled to apply its own interpretations of God’s will based on the scriptures. Papal commissions have studied such subjects as birth control, yet time and again conservatism and the reluctance to accept change have won over basic common sense. And so in this country we have a massive experiment in unlimited population growth that must surely test the current policy to the full. The father of my church in the UK said he thought that subjects like birth control would simply fall off the list of decrees rather than the church admitting it got it wrong. Whether this will happen soon enough to avoid a disaster here remains to be seen. Just as in the UK, those that can afford it use birth control. There is an insistence that people should have a choice, but the poor have no choice! And when will the conditions of the living become of greater importance than whether people use natural or artificial measures to limit their family size. I am Catholic now but that doesn’t mean I have lost the right to question policies that make no sense.