By Hannah Torregoza
Senators on Wednesday urged President Rodrigo Duterte’s economic managers to wake up and act quickly on the rising prices of goods and services now that the inflation rate has hit past a nine-year high of 6.4 percent in August.
“The 6.4 percent inflation rate recorded in August – a nine-year high – is cause for alarm because of its potentially grave impact on poor and underprivileged Filipinos,” Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said in a statement.
“Once again, food inflation is the main culprit, with food prices soaring at a rate of 8.5 percent over the past month,” Gatchalian added.
Gatchalian, Senate committee on economic affairs chief, said the 6.9 percent inflation rate poses a serious threat to the food security of the bottom 30 percent of families in terms of income—who spend roughly P70 of every P100 they earn on food.
“Additionally, the month-on-month inflation rates for the year indicate that inflation is steadily accelerating. This means that prices will continue to rise, and faster than ever, unless we take decisive action to rein in prices,” Gatchalian said.
“Therefore, I am calling once more on the Duterte administration to immediately organize and convene a counter-inflation task force, with the aim of implementing a comprehensive whole-of-government strategy to curb inflation and shield the poor from the increasing burden of rising prices,” the senator reiterated.
Gatchalian also stressed that given the 6.9 percent inflation rate, “solving the inflation problem should be the government’s number one priority.”
“It will take a strong and united government effort to slay the inflation monster that is rearing its ugly head at our economy and our people,” Gatchalian said.
Sen. Paolo “Bam” Aquino IV echoed Gatchalian’s call saying the government should wake up and realize that the country was already facing a crisis.
“Gumising na po kayo, nasa krisis na ang bansa,” said Aquino, in response to the Philippine Statistics Authority’s (PSA) report on the country’s inflation rate.
“Matagal nang naghihintay ng ayuda ang taumbayang nalulunod sa taas presyo ngunit hanggang ngayon, wala pa rin tayong nakikitang malinaw na kilos at plano mula sa pamahalaan (the people have long been waiting for the state to help as they are reeling on the increasing prices but until now they haven’t seen any concrete move or plan from the government),” Aquino said.
Aquino said government officials should immediately address the rising inflation rate, which is primarily blamed on the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law.
The senator said the government should expedite the passage of Senate Bill No. 1798 or the “Bawas Presyo Bill,” which aims to suspend the excise tax on fuel under the TRAIN Law when the average inflation rate surpasses the annual inflation target over a three-month period.
“Nasa harap na ng ating economic managers ang solusyon ngunit patuloy pa rin nila itong binabalewala, (the solution is already in front of our economic managers and yet they still continue to ignore it),” he said.
The lawmaker said the government’s economic managers should look into his measure and join the call for its urgent passage before the second round of excise tax increase on petroleum products under the TRAIN Law becomes effective in January 2019.
“Kung hindi ito gagawin ng ating economic managers, pagdating ng 2019 mamimilipit sila sa paghahanap ng solusyon para masuspinde ang TRAIN Law, (If our economic managers won’t do it, they would be having a hard time finding solutions to suspend the TRAIN law in 2019),” Aquino said.