President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Wednesday said his administration is aiming to increase agricultural production and use new technologies to further bring down the prices of basic commodities in the country. Marcos made the remark on the sidelines of the Livestock and Aquaculture Philippines 2023 at the World Trade Center in Pasay City, as he stressed that putting a premium on agriculture would help tame inflation. In a media interview, Marcos acknowledged that agricultural commodities are one of the biggest contributors to the headline inflation rate. ‘Kaya’t naman itong klaseng pagsasama at pag-exchange of ideas na ginagawa ngayon, ito ay mahalaga dahil (That’s why this kind of event and exchange of ideas that we are doing is important because) we are helping the producers of agricultural commodities to lower the price, make more efficient all their production and also to take full advantage of the new technologies,’ Marcos, who also serves as Agriculture secretary, said. ‘This is a kind of thing that is helping bring down the inflation rate. That’s why, doing this, improving the technologies, helping our farmers at both ends of that value chain, there is an advantage because the farmers will make more money because they’re spending less because they are more efficient,’ he added. Marcos said the government would be able to further ease inflation, if it becomes successful in ramping up agricultural production. ‘That requires our success in increasing our production, making it more efficient and again the value chain that I’m always talking about ad infinitum but it’s really the answer,’ he said. He noted that his administration was able to stabilize the prices of sugar, ‘a very high component’ of inflation, with a clear schedule of importation. According to the Philippine Statistics Authority’s (PSA) report, the headline inflation rate further slowed to 5.4 percent in June 2023 from 6.1 percent in May 2023 as food and non-food inflation continue to decelerate. Core inflation also declined to 7.4 percent from 7.7 percent last month. The month-on-month seasonally adjusted inflation eased to 0.1 percent from 0.3 percent in May. The PSA said food inflation declined to 6.7 percent in June 2023 from 7.5 percent in the previous month because of slower inflation of meat (0.3 percent from 3.2 percent), eggs and dairy products (11.2 percent from 12.1 percent), bread and other cereals (11.0 percent from 11.4 percent), and sugar (28.9 percent from 31.6 percent). Meat inflation decelerated as beef (4.4 percent from 5.3 percent) registered lower inflation, while chicken (-0.9 percent from 5.9 percent) and pork (-2.6 percent from -1.0 percent) recorded a deflation. The PSA said non-food inflation also decelerated to 4.1 percent in June 2023 from 5.0 percent in May. In a memorandum for Marcos, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Director General Arsenio Balisacan noted that during the second Inter-Agency Committee on Inflation and Market Outlook (IAC-IMO) meeting of the Sub-Committee on Food Inflation, the subpanel provided recommendations to augment local supply. The proposals include the issuance of a policy on the automatic approval of the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Import Clearance (SPSIC) for onion when concerned agencies fail to act within a prescribed period, which is similar to the rules being imposed on rice under the Rice Tariffication Law. The subcommittee also recommended the issuance of a sugar order, authorizing the importation of an additional 100,000 metric tons (MT) of refined sugar which should arrive by the third quarter of this year. The Sub-Committee on Non-Food Inflation is scheduled to meet within the week to discuss measures to address non-food inflation. Sound economic policies Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez attributed the continued deceleration of headline inflation to Marcos’s strong political will and the administration’s sound economic policies, ‘President Marcos Jr.’s carefully crafted spending plan in the 2023 national budget, his many investment tours during his term that inspire investor confidence, and his focused programs and actions against high prices of goods all contributed to this drop in the inflation rate,’ Romualdez said in a statement on Wednesday. ‘He practically hit the ground running after the inauguration of his presidency last year. We at the House of Representatives also tried to move at his pace, and we were also very productive in our mandate to support the 8-point economic agenda of the President and his Agenda for Prosperity, including his priority legislation,’ he added. Romualdez said Marcos’ carefully crafted spending plan in the 2023 national budget, his many investment tours during his term that inspire investor confidence, and his focused programs and actions against high prices of goods also contributed to the drop in the inflation rate. He said that one of the President’s visions for the 2023 national budget focused on strengthening the purchasing power of Filipinos, and so far, it had paid off during the first half of the year. ‘We predict that inflation will continue to slow down as we reach the end of 2023, as the programs of the national budget have been implemented to their full extent and the policies of the administration continue to benefit the people,’ he said. Romualdez vowed that the House will continue to exercise its oversight functions to help further bring down the prices of commodities and ease food inflation. ‘We will continue to work on measures to ensure that the prices of goods and basic commodities remain affordable to the Filipino people,’ he said. In a statement, Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman said the downward trend of the headline inflation is an indication that ‘the Philippines is on the right path.’ ‘We are happy of this development,’ she said. ‘Our whole-of-government approach towards economic growth and mitigating the negative impact of inflation, is working.’ Pangandaman said the economic team is hopeful of keeping the inflation within the boundary of 2 to 4 percent from 2024 to 2028, based on the Medium-Term Fiscal Framework. ‘The PBBM administration will remain committed to pushing for the implementation of immediate and medium-term strategies to cushion the impact of inflation on our consumers, including food, transport and energy security,” she said. Ang Probinsyano Party-list Rep. Alfred delos Santos said the Philippine economy is doing well and is far from a debt crisis. “We are not in a debt crisis. Far from it. The Philippine economy is improving. Inflation has been going down, and it is now at 5.4 percent as of June 2023,” he said. Delos Santos said what the government needs to do now is to ensure that the economy “keeps growing at a good pace, more people are employed, and incomes rise.” He said Congress would do its share by making sure the annual national budget is spent on things that strengthen and grow the economy. “We eagerly await the details of the proposed 2024 national budget. We hope the budget gets submitted as soon as possible so we have more time in Congress to go through the details. We also expect the departments and agencies to be ready to account for their 2023 funds and defend their respective budgets,’ he said. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee chair Joey Salceda also welcomed the drop in inflation rate, saying it is “well within expectations.” “Expect business and consumer confidence to continue to improve as inflation figures are now very much anchored on expectations,” he said. Salceda, however, pointed out that inflation in key food items would require further refinement and study of recent proposals to increase taxes on sweetened beverages and impose new taxes on junk food. He, meanwhile, noted that rice inflation remains low at 3.6 percent, which is good news, especially for the bottom 30 percent of households who spend as much as one-fifth of their budget on rice. “It’s also a part of one of PBBM’s most underreported achievements. Ever since he took over as DA (Department of Agriculture) Secretary, farmgate price for palay per kg. has increased from PHP17.24 kg. in May 2022 to PHP19.06 in May 2023, a 10.6 percent increase, even when retail prices increased only by 3.6 percent over the same period,” he said. He said the increase in farmgate prices indicates that farmers are getting a better deal for their produce. “This is also the opposite of what was observed during the initial months of rice tariffication when farmgate prices declined faster than retail prices did. So, there are signs that the rice cartel is being diminished, if not demolished, under PBBM as DA Secretary,” he said. He said moving forward, the main focus should be on sustaining agricultural production amid threats of the El Niño phenomenon.
Source: Philippines News Agency