Consumer prices quickened at a much faster pace in March amid skyrocketing fuel costs.
The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported Tuesday, April 5, that headline inflation clocked in at 4.0 percent last month, jumping from 3.0 percent in February, but marginally slower compared with 4.1 percent in March 2021.
The March number was in line with the median analyst forecast of 4.0 percent and within the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ forecast range of 3.3 percent to 4.1 percent.
The latest inflation rate brought the country’s first quarter average at 3.4 percent, still within the government’s target band of 2.0 percent to 4.0 percent.
Higher inflation rates for both food and non-food commodity groups resulted in a faster inflation for March.
Food inflation increased to 2.8 percent, up from 1.1 percent in February. Notably, corn inflation remained high at 31.3 percent in March as global conflicts further constrained world corn supply.
Increases in the inflation rates for flour and bread, meat, fish, vegetables, and sugar also contributed to the faster food inflation.
Meanwhile, non-food inflation increased to 5.0 percent from 4.1 percent in the previous month, mostly due to elevated oil prices. Transport inflation likewise increased by double-digits or 10.3 percent from 8.8 percent.
In a statement, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua said the government has taken steps to address the inflationary pressures, particularly on fuels, brought about by the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
“We have been proactively monitoring the impact of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. As early as March 7, the Economic Development Cluster (EDC) has already proposed interventions to manage the impact on the economy and the people,” Chua said.
The EDC’s policy interventions to manage supply and prices of key commodities include the expansion of supply and reducing prices of pork by extending the lower tariff, and acceleration of the release of imported pork from cold storages.
EDC also passed the proposed Livestock Development and Competitiveness Law and pursued the livestock value chain reform to address rising corn and feeds prices;
The government also accelerated the release of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Import Clearance from the National Meat Inspection Service's cold storage warehouses to push up chicken inventory; and removed all non-tariff barriers.
Additionally, more than 158,000 corn farmers and fisherfolks registered under the Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture are also set to receive P3,000 as fuel subsidy.
Chua added that to cushion the impact of rising prices, the government will distribute unconditional cash transfers worth P500 per month to the poorest 50 percent of households.
Moreover, around 115,000 public utility vehicle drivers and operators have received P6,500 each under the Pantawid Pasada program.
“The government stands ready to support consumers, commuters, public transport drivers and operators, and agricultural producers to ease the impact of high oil and commodity prices,” Chua said.
“As Covid-19 cases subside, we also aim to move the entire country to alert level 1 to provide more opportunities for Filipinos to earn and provide for their families amid inflationary pressures,” he concluded.