DESPITE being blamed in some quarters for inflation’s hitting a new nine-year-high at 6.4 percent, economic managers will stay at their respective posts, Malacañang said.
Presidential Spokesman Harry L. Roque Jr. said on Thursday that there will be no firing of officials, especially for the economic team, as he noted that the government has already identified short- and long-term measures to curb inflation.
“I think in the Cabinet, economic managers have the strongest support of the President,” Roque said in a television interview.
This was after some lawmakers, including Minority Leader Danilo Suarez and House Senior Deputy Minority Leader and Buhay Party-list Rep. Lito Atienza called for the resignation of some economic managers for their alleged failure to address inflation concerns of the country. Inflation went beyond government and market expectations when it soared to 6.4 percent in August.
After the August inflation figure was announced, the Economic Development Cluster met to identify the nonmonetary measures to fight inflation, such as 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; immediate release 4.6 million sacks of rice available in warehouses of the National Food Authority (NFA) to markets across the country and allocation of 2.7 million sacks of rice to Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi; importation of 5 million sacks of rice, which arrive over the next one-and-a-half months and another 5 million sacks early next year; convening by the Departments of Agriculture and of Trade and Industry of the poultry producers and setting up of public markets where producers can sell this directly to consumers, in order to reduce the gap between the farm gate and retail prices of chicken; and opening of the importation of sugar to direct users to moderate cost to consumers.
Economic managers have also thrown their support behind the swift passage of the rice tariffication bill in Congress as they noted that this will cut prices of rice by P7 per kilo. The House of Representatives has already passed the rice tariffication bill, but its counterpart in the Senate is still pending before the Committee on Agriculture and Food.
The bill seeks to remove the quantitative restriction on rice and convert this into tariffs. The tariff revenues will allow the farm sector to improve its productivity and competitiveness.
With the August inflation figure at 6.4 percent, year-to-date inflation is already at 4.8 percent, which is already beyond the Development Budget Coordination Committee’s forecast for the year at 4 to 4.5 percent. The August inflation figure is also higher than the July inflation figure posted at 5.7 percent.
DBCC Chairman and Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno said on Wednesday that they may revise their inflation forecast and GDP target considering the new developments, including the average GDP growth for the first half of the year.
High cost of diesel
Meanwhile, some sectors are already fretting over the impact of inflation. The Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said the high inflation rate is taking its toll on the poor, especially small fishermen.
In a statement on Thursday, Pamalakaya national Chairman Fernando Hicap said the surging cost of fuel and petroleum products decreases their capacity, and they are now spending lesser hours out in the sea to fish.
Since the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) was implemented, imposing higher excise taxes on fuel oil price, most small fishermen have had to cut their fishing trips from the regular six to eight hours to four to six hours a day.
They also have to reduce fishing days from the average of four to five days a week to three days a week.
With the recent increase of prices of fuel, the group said their sector will have to reduce their fishing trips further since the output of every trip is not always enough to cover the production expenses due to the decline of municipal fish catch. This also means, the group added, the diminution of their already small income and their families going hungrier.
“Production cost increases yet our income remains low as ever. We’ve had enough of the Duterte administration’s band-aid solutions to inflation such as flooding our local markets with imported products. The importation policy will actually do more harm than good to the Filipino consumers especially to local food producers such as farmers and fishers,” he said.
“The Duterte government must take concrete action to address this economic injustice by taking a long-term solution including strengthening our agriculture and fisheries, government intervention through price control, and cease and desist from privatization of our basic social services.”