CENTRAL Visayas posted a 4.4 percent inflation rate in January, down from 5.3 percent the previous month.
This mirrors the national figure reported by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) on Tuesday, Feb. 5.
The government vowed to ensure the pace of increase in consumer prices will further slow down.
In a statement, the PSA said the slowdown in the rise of consumer prices was due to the slower annual increment in the heavily-weighted food and non-alcoholic beverages, which rose by 5.6 percent in January from 6.7 percent in December.
Inflation is the rate of increase of the prices of goods and commodities.
In September to October 2018, the country faced a 6.7 percent inflation rate that had the government scrambling to temper the rising prices of goods.
“With inflation further tapering down to a 10-month low of 4.4 percent, this administration will oversee and ensure that its consequent effects at the market would be felt by the ordinary consumer,” Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.
“We will remain on guard in monitoring the prices of basic goods and commodities as we aim to mitigate poverty and hunger, driven by the President’s economic goal to lay down and build the foundation to a comfortable life for the present and future generations,” Panelo added.
For the country’s economic managers, the inflation rate “gives us an auspicious start in our efforts this year to keep inflation manageable and bring it back to the government’s target range of two to four percent for 2019.” In a joint statement, the National Economic and Development Authority, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Department of Finance and Department of Budget and Management, said the easing inflation was widely felt across all regions.
In Central Visayas, there were ower increases in the prices of food and non-alcoholic beverages (6.6 percent); alcoholic beverages and tobacco (16.4 percent); clothing and footwear (1.2 percent); housing, water, electricity, gas and fuels (2.8 percent); health (3.8 percent); and transport (.2 percent).
The economic managers also noted that the price index of petroleum and fuels for transport equipment dropped by 1.8 percent last month from 4.1 percent in December, which partly contributed to the lower transport cost and utility rates, that in turn, drove down inflation of non-food items.
“We are confident that inflation will further ease in the near term and settle at 3.2 percent and 3.0 percent in 2019 and 2020, respectively, as seen by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas,” the statement read.
The team said it will push for the full implementation of non-monetary and administrative measures to stave off possible supply bottlenecks that caused prices of agricultural commodities to surge last year.
“While the inflation’s decelerating trend is something we have anticipated, we remain driven to be bolder and more focused on our overall anti-inflationary measures.”
As they expect the rice tariffication bill to be enacted soon, they are preparing for a “quick and smooth” transition to the new import tariff regime, along with the operation of the National Single Window to facilitate seamless trade transactions.
The team cited the need for high-value crops such as fruits and vegetables to be made “more adaptive and resilient” to changing weather conditions, noting that some crops experienced weather-related supply shocks last year.
The team urged the Department of Agriculture to facilitate a comprehensive crop management system to align farming activities with prevailing supply-demand conditions and weather patterns. For the fishery sector, they want to intensify sustainable management of coastal and marine resources, especially with the reported decline in available fish in open waters.
While these are short-term measures, the members of the Economic Development Cluster all agree that more attention needs to be given to the agriculture sector for it to adapt to extreme weather events.
They also sought the timely release of unconditional cash transfers and fuel vouchers for public utility jeepneys to cushion the effects of inflation on the vulnerable sector. (JOB, Ruth Abbey Gita of SunStar Philippines)