6.4-percent inflation rate highest in 4 years
BY EIREENE JAIREE GOMEZ AND CATHERINE S. VALENTE
The Manila Times
THE country’s inflation rate jumped to 6.4 percent in July, the fastest in four years, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported on Friday. During a briefing, National Statistician Dennis Mapa said last month’s inflation rate was the highest since the 6.9 percent rate in September and October 2018. The rate stayed within the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ forecast of 5.6 to 6.4 percent but is higher than the 6.1 percent in June this year and the 3.7 percent in July last year. Mapa said the surge was driven by rising food and transport prices. Food and non-alcoholic beverages grew by 6.9 percent in July from 6.0 percent in June. He said the price of fish and other seafood was up by 9.2 percent. The price of meat and poultry also rose by 9.9 percent rise, and sugar, confectionery and desserts, by 17.6 percent. Transport was the second commodity group with faster inflation in July, rising by 18.1 percent from 17.1 in June. Mapa cited as among the factors the soaring cost of fuel — 45.4 percent for gasoline, 91.3 percent for diesel and 7.1 percent for jeep charges. Restaurants and accommodation services chalked up a 3.4 percent rate. Mapa said the rate for the poorest or bottom 30 percent of families further increased to 5.3 percent in July this year from 5 percent in June and 4.4 percent in July 2021. The average inflation rate this year was 4.7 percent, and Mapa said prices are projected to rise further. “The threat for the increasing inflation for the next months would really be coming from the food basket,” he said. In a statement, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said it expects the inflation outlook to be “broadly balanced for 2024.” “Upside risks over the nearterm continue to emanate from the higher global non-oil prices driven by the protracted war between Russia and Ukraine, as well as from the potential second-round impact of higher oil prices on the prices of goods and services. Domestic food prices also pose upside risks due to shortages in the supply of several key food items,” the BSP said. However, it stressed that a slower-than-expected global recovery due to tighter monetary policy conditions and the uncertainty from the Covid-19 pandemic could still push inflation to higher levels. The banks said it “is prepared to take all necessary policy action to bring inflation toward a targetconsistent path over the medium term and deliver on its primary mandate of price stability.” Improving monetary policy rates in May and June and the off-cycle adjustment in July “should help moderate inflation expectations.” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan assured that the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) remains committed to ensuring food security and affordability and reducing transport and logistics costs to prevent a further rise in inflation. “We are also helping reduce energy, transport, and logistics costs, especially for vulnerable sectors of our population. It is our urgent priority to ease price pressures and protect the public’s purchasing power through the implementation of programs that will help Filipinos cope with the effects of a higher inflation rate,” Balisacan said. To boost food production, the government will continue to support the agriculture sector through lower input costs, development of new farming technologies, extension of financial assistance to farmers, and strengthening the agricultural value chain, he said. “These can be achieved through the Plant, Plant, Plant Program 2, the government’s PhP24-billion flagship program on food security, which provides subsidy and support to the agriculture sector,” Balisacan said. The government has started charting the Philippine Development Plan 2023-2028, he said. Press Secretary Rose Beatrix “Trixie” Cruz-Angeles said on Friday the high inflation rate was expected because of the “international events that have led to the increase in the prices of petroleum.” Cruz-Angeles told a press briefing that addressing the rising inflation was discussed by President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. himself during his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 25. “I understand that these were projected even before given the inputs due to the international events that have led to the increase in the prices of petroleum. All of these have been factored,” she said.