SPEAKER Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez on Sunday vowed that the House of Representatives, in partnership with President Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr., will continue to pursue programs to further bring down inflation by reducing or at least stabilizing food prices.
The leader of the 300-plus-strong House of Representatives made the commitment in reaction to the report of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) that inflation eased for the third straight month in December to 3.9 percent, from P4.1 percent in November and 4.9 percent in October.
“We are happy about this encouraging piece of good news, especially for our people. The easing of inflation last month meant that food prices were still down despite the fact the December and the Christmas season usually see prices jumping to unreasonable levels,” Speaker Romualdez said.
He said the fall in inflation meant that the Marcos administration’s intervention programs implemented before the Christmas yielded positive results.
“This development is a testament to the collective effort and resilience of our people and the Marcos administration’s commitment to make life better for every Filipino,” he said.
He noted that the nation began the year facing a 14-year inflation peak of 8.7 percent in January, driven by increases in food and fuel prices.
“We have tamed the monster, cutting it down by more than half,” the House leader stressed.
He pointed out that the December figure of 3.9 percent is aligned with the government’s target of 2-4-percent inflation.
Moving forward, the Speaker said the House of Representatives will remain focused on pursuing programs, especially those funded in the 2024 national budget, that would further bring down inflation by supporting farmers and fisherfolk in general, keeping the economy growing, while helping the vulnerable sectors.
“We have to assist those in our agriculture sector, including those engaged in agri-business, so they can produce more. More rice, more fish, more vegetables, more staple food will translate to lower prices,” he said.
He said this year’s budget includes enough funds to support farmers with seeds, fertilizer and other inputs, farm implements, irrigation, and other forms of assistance.
He added that the budget also allocates billions for the poor, near poor and other vulnerable sectors.
Speaker Romualdez said the proposed P5.768-trillion 2024 national budget includes almost P500 billion social amelioration program or ‘ayuda’ for at least 12 million poor and low-income families or an estimated 48 million Filipinos.
He revealed that Congress introduced in the budget a new program labelled AKAP, for Ayuda sa Kapos ang Kita.
“It’s a P60-billion fund, whose aim is to provide direct cash assistance to the ‘near poor’ or families earning up to P23,000 a month. At least 12 million households will benefit from it, including low-income workers like those in construction and factories, drivers, food service crew, and the like,” Speaker Romualdez said.
He said the target beneficiaries would receive “a one-time cash assistance of P5,000.”
“If the program is successful, we can continue implementing it next year,” he said.
The House leader pointed out that existing government programs targeting the poorest of the poor, like Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation (AICS) under the Department of Social Welfare and Development and Tulong Pang-hanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantage/Displaced Workers (TUPAD) under the Department of Labor and Employment would continue to get tens of billions in funds.
Some P23 billion has been appropriated for AICS and P30 billion for TUPAD, he added.
He attributed the significant fall in inflation since November to intervention measures taken by President Marcos and supported by him and his colleagues in Congress.
In particular, Speaker Romualdez cited the P45-per-kilo cap on the price of rice the President imposed at the start of September.
“We will continue to monitor the prices of rice and other staples. If we notice an unreasonable and unjustified increase, we will not hesitate to recommend to the President the reimposition of a price limit,” he said.
He said he continues to receive reports that rice prices are still at P50-P60 per kilo.
The Speaker warned profiteers, hoarders, smugglers, and price manipulators that the House would not hesitate to exercise its oversight power by launching inquiries to expose them and their illegal activities.
As his own intervention project, the House leader has launched CARD (for Cash Assistance and Rice Distribution), consistent with the President’s efforts to help the poor.
“We will aim to reach more areas, especially remote communities, as soon as possible so we could help more people. We hope this project would ultimately have a favorable impact on food prices, on inflation and on poverty in general,” he said.
In partnership with the Department of Social Welfare and Development, CARD teams have distributed rice and financial assistance to thousands of beneficiaries in Metro Manila and in the provinces.
Beneficiaries include senior citizens, persons with disability, solo parents, and indigenous people.
CARD targets to reach tens of thousands of poor Filipinos in all legislative districts throughout the country.