Albay 2nd District Representative Joey Salceda rebutted the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Bicol statement that the recorded 9% inflation in the region should not be a cause for alarm.
Salceda said that the ‘high inflation’ is an existential threat’ considering that Bicol is the 4th poorest region in the country. Such a high inflation will increase the number of impoverished people and will heighten hunger that will cause malnutrition.
The congressman added that the situation will increase the “stunting rate” of children which is detrimental to their physical and mental conditions.
No food shortage
During a press conference on September 7, NEDA Region 5 Director Agnes Espinas-Tolentino said that consumers should not be alarmed with the high inflation rate. She added that prices of agricultural products remain competitive against the other regions particularly in Mindanao and the National Capital Region (NCR).
She also stressed out that Bicol is not in a crisis situation because there is a sufficient supply of food.
Department of Agriculture (DA) Region 5 Director Elena De Los Santos supported Tolentino’s claims stating that the production of fish has increased by 75, 000 metric tons on the 2nd semester of the year. This is 120% fish sufficiency rate for the region.
She added that Bicol is rice sufficient since 2011 and explained that the 27% increase in vegetable prices is due to its transportation costs. She said most vegetables in the region are from Benguet and the increase in fuel prices affected their prices.
Factors of inflation
According to Philippine Statistics Authority Bicol Regional Director Cynthia Perdiz, the 9% inflation was triggered by the implementation of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act or TRAIN Law, the state of supply and demand, the fluctuations of the peso to dollar exchange, and the drop in the purchasing power.
Perdiz pointed out that the region’s inflation has a normal trend when viewed month by month thus, should not be a cause for alarm.
Tolentino said that a task group that will regulate and monitor prices of rice, meat, and vegetables in the market will be formed.
The task group will be composed of officials from the DA, Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Justice, Department of Finance, Philippine National Police, and Local Government Units.
The task group may also file charges against hoarders, cartels, smugglers and other economic saboteurs.
Other anti-inflation mechanisms identified during the press con were reducing the restrictions on the entry of agricultural products but imposing proper tariffs, setting up of trading posts and fully mechanizing farming to improve food production.
Meanwhile, Salceda said that the government can lower the national inflation rate to 6.1% by this month and further slide it to 2 – 4% by 2019 if the economic managers will apply aggressive measures to address it.
Salceda said lowering tariffs on fish and meat products and ensuring a stable supply of rice in the market will do well to counter inflation. (Reports from Radyo Veritas Legazpi)