AN economist-lawmaker on Wednesday said anti-inflationary measures and keeping food affordable should be the immediate economic priority of the incoming Marcos administration and the next Congress.
House Committee on Ways and Means Chairman Joey Sarte Salceda made the statement as the country’s headline inflation quickened to 5.4 percent in May from 4.9 percent in April, based on reports from the Philippine Statistics Authority. Inflation levels are seen to persist as the Russia-Ukraine conflict rages.
“It’s the most propoor policy the new President can take on his first few days in office. I am also recommending a package of bills, which could perhaps be integrated into the Bayan Bangon Muli law,” he said.
Apart from funding provisions and provisions allowing the President to redirect some unused appropriations and resources, Salceda is proposing that Congress enact a package of inflation-busting measures, such as anti-price gouging in the food and fuel sectors, price unbundling for fuel, some key tariff removals for imported farm inputs such as fertilizers and equipment, and boosting the production of domestic energy sources, such as coal, until the country can overcome this global price problem.
Salceda earlier warned that “food inflation is the most regressive of all economic phenomena, because it tends to hit the poor the most.”
“We already see that in the official statistics. The inflation rate for the bottom 30 percent of households, year to date, has been 4.3 percent, whereas general inflation has been 3.5 percent year to date. This emphasizes the need to expedite any subsidies still undistributed,” Salceda said.
Amid surging commodity prices, Salceda also called on the administration to expedite the release of still undistributed subsidies, particularly the P500 monthly subsidy promised earlier by President Duterte.
“The Energy department has warned that more fuel hikes are coming next week. You will also see price increases in other commodities, such as bread and fish, in the coming months. So, we really need the aid to be released as soon as possible,” Salceda said.
“I think the aid is coming this week or next week, as long as the proper authorization is already made. I just confirmed this also with some sources in the Department of Social Welfare and Development,” Salceda added.
According to Salceda, “the subsidies that can still help are the unconditional cash transfers under the TRAIN law. Around 10 billion pesos of that is still up for release. There are some balances from the Rice Farmer Financial Assistance program of the DA, which can also help farmers facing the brunt of fuel hikes.”
Salceda added, “The promised P2.5 billion in ayuda to farmers and the transport sector also needs to be released soon. President Duterte can order their expedited release within a certain date.”
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