Basic food items such as rice, fish, meat and vegetables have been major drivers of inflation this year with the contribution of rice rising 10 times to 1 percentage point of the inflation rate, according to the Department of Finance (DOF).
In particular, data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed rice was the number one contributor to inflation in September 2018, while food items in the consumption basket accounted for more than half of the inflation rate in the same month.
In a presentation during the last Cabinet meeting, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III pointed out that, in contrast, the contribution of nonfood items such as electricity, gas and other fuels have slowed down since July this year.
“Rice tariffication and reforms in food policy are needed to address the repeated rice supply problems,” he said.
The rice tariffication bill, once passed into law, is expected to liberalize the importation of rice in the country. It will also help lower rice prices while providing enough support for local farmers who will be affected by the influx of cheaper rice imports. This measure has been certified as urgent by President Duterte.
Economic managers said liberalizing rice imports would lower the retail price of rice by P2 to P7 per kilo, and reduce inflation rate by 0.4 percentage point.
Among the short-term measures recommended by the DOF during the meeting were for the Department of Agriculture to undertake steps to bring down food prices, and for the departments of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and Transportation to speed up the release and distribution of cash cards to the poorest households and fuel subsidy cards to operators of public utility vehicles, respectively.
The release of unconditional cash transfers by the DSWD and fuel subsidies through the Pantawid Pasada Program are among the social mitigation measures under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act.
“Food inflation is the main driver of inflation, especially in recent months,” Finance Assistant Secretary Antonio Joselito Lambino II said in a recent briefing. “The DA, which is the key to bringing down food prices, has been empowered under several presidential directives to put in place measures to increase food supply and bring down food prices.”
These presidential directives included Administrative Order No. 13, which removed administrative restrictions on the importation of agricultural products.
The President also issued Memorandum Order (MO) 26 directing the DA and the Department of Trade and Industry to implement measures to reduce the gap between the farm gate and retail prices of agricultural products.
MO 27 ordered several government agencies to “adopt measures to ensure the efficient and seamless delivery” of imported agricultural and fishery products from ports to markets, while MO 28 directed the National Food Authority to immediately release existing rice stocks.
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