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Reassuring moves to keep inflation down

 

IN the midst of so much worrying news – continuing inflation, weakening of the peso in world trade, foreign investors beginning to withdraw their funds, a drop in the Gross National Product (GNP) to a three-year low of 6 percent in the second quarter – we must take note and find hope in the series of measures that various government agencies have taken to solve the big problem that boils down, as far ordinary Filipinos are concerned, to high and still rising prices.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque enumerated some of these measures:

– The government is now importing rice to augment the supply. The President has warned traders their warehouses will be raided to bring out their hidden stocks.

– The government plans to import cheap diesel from countries which are not members of the Orga­nization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) cartel.

– The peso should stabilize by December when the remittances of overseas Filipino workers reach their annual peak.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, chairman of the Cabinet’s Economic Development Cluster, said:

– The National Food Authority (NFA) has been ordered to release 4.6 million sacks of rice to the market immediately. Another 2 million sacks previously contracted will be in the markets by the end of September.

– The NFA Council has authorized the importation of another 5 million sacks that will be arriving in the next month and a half, as well the importation of another 5 million sacks early next year.

– The harvest season has already begun in many parts of the country and the 2018 harvest is expected to be over 12.6 million tons or 252 million sacks. Fish imports will be distributed in wet markets of Metro Manila.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development has released some Php4.3 billion to the Land­bank for some 1.8 million beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, on top of R24 million due for release to 10 million poor households. Major petroleum companies have agreed to provide fuel discounts for public utility vehicle drivers.

Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo joined in the effort to reassure Filipino consumers by recalling that at one time, in 2009, during her administration, inflation hit 6.6 percent – higher than the cur­rent 6.4 percent – but massive rice importations along with massive purchases from local farmers eventually brought the inflation rate down.

Even Vice President Leni Robredo contributed a suggestion for self-help, not just relying on government action. Grow fruits and vegetables in backyards, she advised. This is something many older Filipinos in the provinces have relied on in times of need, such as during the war.

We are confident the government will continue to take various steps to stem the rising prices in our markets. If world fuel prices hit $80 a barrel for three months, the government will suspend collection of the excise tax on diesel, as provided for in the TRAIN law; it is now $70 a barrel. In the meantime, it is taking all these various other measures which should be reassuring to us all.

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