March 6, 2018

MANILA – Measures to curb inflation and cushion its impact on the poor are urgently needed, the National Economic and Development Authority said, as the inflation rate for February 2018 reached the upper band of the government’s target.

The Philippine Statistics Authority reported that February 2018 inflation was at 3.9 percent, with faster increases in the price of food and non-alcoholic beverages (4.8%), transport (5.8%), alcoholic beverages and tobacco (16.9%), furnishing, household equipment, and routine maintenance of the house (2.5%), restaurant and miscellaneous goods and services (2.5%), and clothing and footwear (2.0%).

While still within the 2.0-4.0 percent target of the government, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia said that the government should remain vigilant and prepared to implement measures that will mitigate the upside risks to inflation.

“The transitory impact of the TRAIN Law and the continued depreciation of the Philippine peso will mainly influence price movements in the coming months, and we must ensure that mitigating measures should be in place”, the NEDA official said.

Pernia said government must pay closer attention to the poor. He said there is a need to expand the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) and to fast-track the distribution of unconditional cash transfer (UCT) from the TRAIN. He also reiterated the call to replace the quantitative restrictions on rice with tariffs. This is expected to lower the price of rice and raise revenues for agricultural programs such as crop diversification and investment in disaster risk resiliency.

“These measures will ensure better stability in the prices of food items and maintain or raise the purchasing power of the bottom 30 percent of households,” he added.

Pernia also mentioned that the government, through the active lead of the Department of Trade and Industry, needs to strengthen the surveillance of businesses’ compliance with the country’s laws and regulations on fair consumer goods pricing to prevent the occurrence of profiteering.

“We must enforce fair consumer pricing among businesses: In January, there were anecdotal reports that some of them are taking advantage of the TRAIN Law by prematurely increasing their selling prices despite no additional input costs to their production and services brought about by the law,” Pernia said.

In an earlier statement, Pernia noted that based on the agency’s calculations, around 0.7 percent (at most) of inflation for 2018 will likely be attributable to the effect of TRAIN.