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Late reaction! Economic managers scramble to slow inflation down after reaching 9-year high

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By Prince Golez

The country’s economic managers are urging President Rodrigo Duterte to “further simplify and streamline” steps in securing rice-import permits with the National Food Authority (NFA).

“(We) have agreed to recommend to the President the issuance of a directive to further simplify and streamline the licensing procedures for rice imports of the NFA,” Assistant Secretary Tony Lambino of the Department of Finance (DOF) said on Wednesday.

Lambino said the DOF, the Department of Budget and Management, the National Economic Development and Authority, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Agriculture (DA), the Department of Justice, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the Bureau of the Treasury, and some members of the NFA Council held a meeting today to discuss “immediate reforms” to help tame food inflation.

Headline inflation came in at 6.4 percent year-on-year in August 2018, the Philippine Statistics Authority reported. This is higher than the 5.7 percent recorded in July.

The DOF official noted that electricity, gas, fuels, fish, rice, personal transport, vegetables, and meat are the highest contributors to inflation.

“Reforms in agriculture will continuously be implemented to address the supply issues causing the rise in food prices. This is supported by the lowest regional inflation rate recorded in food-abundant and agriculturally-productive Region III at 3.6 percent,” said Lambino.

“A committed effort from government in the agriculture sector to boost supply of key products and introduce policy reforms will bring down prices for all Filipino families,” he said.

The group called for the passage of the Rice Tariffication bill, a measure seeking to liberalize rice importation while imposing a 35 percent tarrif, “within the month.”

On chicken, Lambino said DA and DTI will convene poultry producers and setup public markets where producers can sell directly to the end customer “to reduce the gap between the farm gate and retail prices.”

To cut sugar prices, the Sugar Regulatory Administration, an agency mandated to promote the growth and development of the sugar industry, will open importation of sugar to direct users to moderate cost to consumers, he said.

The DA, according to him, is also bent on lowering fish prices by “replicating the issuance of certificates of necessity to allow imports to be distributed in the wet markets in Metro Manila and to the other markets of the country.”

Meanwhile, Lambino attributed the spike in the prices of vegetables to “seasonal weather conditions.”

“We will see relief in this area after the typhoon season,” the assistant secretary assured.