Palace: Gov’t moving to lower inflation

Published July 22, 2018, 11:44 AM

by Patrick Garcia

By Genalyn Kabiling

The government is pursuing measures, including a rice tariffication bill, to lower inflation and improve the plight of Filipinos after a new survey showed more families considered themselves poor.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque speaks during a press briefing at the New Executive Building in Malacanang, Friday. (CAMILLE ANTE / MANILA BULLETIN)
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque acknowledged that the Palace takes “seriously” the latest self-rated poverty survey and recognizes that poor families have been affected by the high inflation rate.

“We are putting in place long-term solutions to significantly reduce inflation and help poor Filipino families, such as pushing for rice tariffication as rice accounts for around 20% of the total consumption of the poor and implementing our Build, Build, Build Program to lower the transport cost of food and goods,” Roque said.

“As government reported earlier this month when June inflation numbers were announced, families felt the pinch of higher food prices, particularly the accelerated increase in the price of rice during the survey period, due primarily to weather-related delays in distribution of cheap imports,” he added.

He noted that rice inflation consistently picked up from 1 percent in January to 4.7 percent in June this year.

A Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey, conducted last June, showed 48 percent of the respondents, or an estimated 11.1 million families, considered themselves poor.

The number was higher than the 42 percent or an estimated 9.8 million families who rated themselves as poor in a March survey. The pollster attributed the high percentage in self-rated poverty to the sharp increases in Mindanao, Metro Manila, and Visayas.

The same survey found 34 percent, or about 7.8 million families, rating their food as poor, or called by SWS as food-poor.

While more families felt poorer in other regions in the past three months, Roque pointed out that self-rated poverty dropped in balance Luzon “where Region III, the country’s rice basket and other rice-growing areas are located, and where rice prices are lower.”

He said the timing of the survey last June 27 to 30 should also be taken into consideration.

He said at the time of the survey, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) had distributed unconditional cash transfers to around 3.8 million of the 10 million total beneficiaries “with distribution ramping up quickly subsequently.”

The Department of Transportation also started its Pantawid Pasada Program for jeepney operators with valid franchises this month, he added.

The Department of Finance has pushed for the passage of a bill that seeks to replace the quantitative import restrictions on rice with tariffs. The proposed import duty rates are reportedly expected to bring down rice prices and reduce the country’s inflation.