PH gov’t committed to supporting consumers and farmers as inflation rises in September 2023—NEDA

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) reassures the public that the government will continue supporting the most vulnerable sectors while implementing necessary measures to respond to rising prices as inflation inched up in September 2023.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), inflation in September 2023 increased to 6.1 percent, up from 5.3 percent in August. This brings the year-to-date inflation to 6.6 percent.

This increase is primarily explained by higher food inflation, which rose to 10.0 percent last month from 8.2 percent in August. This is due to the higher inflation of rice (17.9% from 8.7%), meat (1.3% from -0.1%), fruits (11.6% from 9.6%), and corn (1.6% from 0.9%). Meanwhile, the prices of fish, vegetables, sugar, eggs & dairy products, and bread & other cereals recorded slower inflation.

“The government is committed to providing targeted assistance to affected vulnerable segments of the population while food prices remain elevated,” said NEDA Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) launched the country’s first digital Food Stamp Program on September 29, 2023. The program aims to address the lingering incidence of food poverty and malnutrition among low-income Filipino households by providing monthly meal augmentation worth PHP 3,000. This will benefit families classified as ‘food poor’ by the PSA, along with pregnant and nursing mothers.

Moreover, as of September 27, 2023, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board has provided fuel subsidies to 74,089 public utility vehicles.

The DSWD will also provide a PHP10,000 cash subsidy to 78,000 farmers listed in the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps). Additionally, rice farmers are set to receive PHP 5,000 as financial assistance to help sustain their productivity amid the increasing cost of production.

On September 18, 2023, the National Food Authority Council set a new buying price for palay (unhusked rice), raising the buying price of dry palay from PHP 19.00 to PHP 23.00 and the buying price of wet palay from PHP 16.00 to PHP 19.00. This increase aims to provide Filipino farmers with higher income.

The country’s chief socioeconomic planner added that the government, through the Inter-Agency Committee on Inflation and Market Outlook (IAC-IMO), is proactively monitoring the demand-and-supply situation, particularly of key commodities, to provide the President and Cabinet with appropriate and timely policy recommendations.

“In line with this, we are closely monitoring both local and global markets in terms of price movement, as they may be affected by the availability of supply or disruptions in the supply chain,” said Balisacan.

During the last IAC-IMO meeting on October 3, 2023, the committee recommended extending the lower Most Favored Nation (MFN) tariff rate on rice under Executive Order (EO) No. 10.

“To address the increasing price of rice and ensure enough supply through timely and adequate importation, the IAC-IMO recommends extending the lower MFN tariff rate on rice until December 2024, but subject to review in July 2024. This policy response must be complemented by efforts to improve the predictability and transparency of issuing the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Import Clearance for rice and all commodities,” stated Balisacan.

Furthermore, to help ensure efficient transportation and reduce the costs of agricultural products, President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. issued EO No. 41, which prohibits the collection of pass-through fees on national roads and urges local government units to suspend the collection of fees from vehicles transporting goods.

The NEDA Secretary further said that should the global price of rice continue to rise due to the impacts of El Niño and rice export bans among key rice-exporting countries, resulting in a need for a more robust response to stabilize local prices, the proposal to temporarily lower tariffs on rice, regardless of origin, may be revisited.

“As we implement short-term measures to ease the negative effects of inflation, it is imperative that we also address our long-term food supply issues by providing support for our local farmers to boost their productivity and resilience. These include investing in irrigation, modern high-yielding varieties, pest control, and logistics,” Balisacan said.