The trade and industry department has been challenged by the youth organization Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan to walk its noche buena talk and provide evidence to support its claim that a complete Christmas dinner can be purchased for approximately P500.

SPARK, or the Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan, dared DTI Usec. Ruth Castelo and other officials to feed their own families the affordable, traditional Noche Buena they are prescribing.

The youth group said in a statement Wednesday that Castelo’s claim on December 7 that the sum is sufficient if consumers follow the DTI price guides is unreliable given the rise in food prices.

“If it’s so simple, then we implore Usec. Castelo to put her P488 pesos where her mouth is, and prepare the exact Noche Buena specified by the DTI at her family’s Christmas celebration,” SPARK national coordinator John Lazaro dared.

“It’s either that, or she has to admit how insanely out of touch the DTI is with the issues that the Filipino masses face,” he added.

Purchasing food items in bundles was encouraged by the DTI so that the savings would be more noticeable.

But Lazaro said that the low price estimate of P488 didn’t include many important things.

“Even leaving aside how threadbare and depressing the DTI’s package would be, they still leave out the inevitable expenses for cooking oil, water, or even a stove and LPG to cook at all,” Lazaro explained.

“Of course, in Usec. Castelo’s recreation of the DTI Noche Buena, she should also be prohibited from using cookware, or even bowls and plates, as that would take the expenditures way over P488,” he elaborated.

SPARK also said that the DTI report didn’t take into account the low budgets of people who make minimum wage or the fact that inflation hit a new high of 8% last month.

“This budget Christmas meal could easily end up costing way over P800 next year, at the rate that this economy is going,” Lazaro warned.

The activists noted that more than the baselessness and absurdity of DTI’s annual Christmas prescription, they were irked by the trade official’s arrogance in imposing belt-tightening measures for everyone else while holding multiple extravagant events of their own, like their department’s Christmas party.

“If the DTI really wanted to look after consumer welfare, they would instead crack down on food companies that partook in exploitative practices during the holiday season, such as artificially raising Noche Buena food prices,” he concluded.

The group has expressed support for labor groups pushing for living wages, instituting wealth tax measures on billionaires and tycoons and increased government spending on social services and social security.

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