MANILA, Philippines – With prices of goods climbing to a fresh high in June, Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo pushed for lower tariffs on some food imports to ease inflation during a meeting with the country’s economic managers.
Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said in an interview on ANC that Arroyo pitched to economic managers 5 measures to mitigate the rise of prices of basic commodities when she called for a meeting with them on Tuesday, July 31.
Diokno declined to give details of Arroyo’s proposals, but he indicated that tariff adjustments would play a central role in Arroyo’s proposed strategy.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia, who also attended the meeting, earlier said Arroyo said she would work on passing the rice tarrification law, which would bring down rice prices.
Reliable sources privy to the meeting also said Arroyo pitched zero tariffs on fish imports and reduced tariffs on meat.
Diokno said Arroyo apparently called for the meeting to to share her experience in managing inflation when she was president.
“If you remember, the highest inflation rate happened during her term when price of oil hit about $135 per barrel. Maybe she thought with her experience she could contribute something to the conversation,” Diokno said.
During Arroyo’s presidency, Philippine inflation reached a then 17-year high of 12.5% in August 2008, owing to the global financial crisis. Part of the Arroyo administration’s strategy then was to help sectors hard-hit by higher food and fuel prices through subsidies.
In the ANC interview, Diokno also projected inflation to taper off during the 4th quarter of 2018 and hoped it had already peaked in June, when it hit a fresh high of 5.2%.
“If you look at month-on-month [inflation], there is already a deceleration, then in June it went up again, that is an outlier,” Diokno said.
He also said he wanted to discuss inflation with the Department of Education, as education expenses went up last month. Diokno said he found it “weird” for school expenses to jump as the government provided free tuition in state colleges and universities.
Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) economists forecasted July inflation to fall between 5.1% to 5.8%. Inflation figures are expected to be released on Tuesday, August 7.
Arroyo, an economist, met with the country’s economic managers on Tuesday, to discuss the economic conditions of the country. They were joined by Bohol 3rd District Representative Arthur Yap, House economic affairs committee chair; and Albay 2nd District Representative Joey Salceda, vice chair of the House ways and means committee.
Salceda and Yap are former Arroyo Cabinet members and former students of Arroyo at the Ateneo de Manila University. Salceda served Arroyo as economics adviser and presidential chief of staff, while Yap was her agriculture secretary. – Rappler.com