Manila: Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte had asked for recommendations from former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on how to tame the country’s rising inflation.
According to presidential Spokesman Harry Roque, the former President and now House Speaker had already issued a set of recommendations for urgent implementation and among which are imposing zero tariff on fish imports, the importation of 500,000 metric tonnes of well-milled rice; and for the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP or Central Banks) to increase an additional 25 basis point its key lending rates.
Arroyo, an economics professor before becoming senator and then president, was credited to taming the inflation after 2001. Although her presidency had been besieged by failed power grabs, the country was nursed back to being economically healthy.
Rice, the staple in the country of more than 100 million inhabitants, had been steadily rising in price since March of this year.
According to the, the increase in rice prices, as well as other basic food commodities such as fish, contributed to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the inflation registered for July jumped to 5.7 per cent, compared to 5.2 per cent in June.
In Metro Manila, inflation shot up to 6.5 per cent from the previous 5.8 per cent. Areas outside of the National Capital Region followed the trend and registered a 5.5 per cent jump, higher than the 5.1 per cent in June.
The Commission on Audit had blamed the increase in rice prices and other commodities to a decision made by the Duterte administration last year to procure less rice for buffer stock by diverting 5 billion pesos (Dh346 million) subsidy for the government food security programme to pay loans.
“The procurement shortfall affected other programmes of NFA (National Food Authority), such as rice distribution and buffer stocking resulting in higher price of rice, unavailability of NFA rice in the market and lower inventory of rice in various NFA warehouses,” the online news site <Rappler>, said quoting a 2017 Commission on Audit Report.
President Duterte also warned businessmen hoarding rice that they would be sent to prison for “economic sabotage.”
But Senator Nancy Binay said at the moment, it remains to be seen if the President would make good of his threats. “It’s one giant step that the President will use the entire power of the State to go after rice smugglers and hoarders,” however, she expressed frustration that despite the numerous congressional probes and warnings, rice cartels continue to operate.
The President enjoyed strong popularity ratings however, bread and butter issues started to hound his administration.