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Philippine government vows action as food prices skyrocket
Published on: Friday, October 06, 2023
By: AFP, Inquirer
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Philippine government vows action as food prices skyrocket
Street vendors tend to their stalls selling tomatoes and various vegetables in Paco Market in Manila. (ABS-CBN News)
MANILA: High food prices in the Philippines have pushed inflation to a five-month peak, officials said Thursday, increasing pressure on the government to stop the country’s neediest going hungry.

Farming subsidies and food stamps for the poor are among government efforts to rein in or mitigate price increases, which have dented the popularity of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

“The government is committed to providing targeted assistance to affected vulnerable segments of the population while food prices remain elevated,” Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said in a statement announcing last month’s consumer prices data.

The inflation rate of 6.1 percent was up from 5.3 percent a month earlier.

Last month Marcos put a controversial price cap on rice, a national staple, to support poor households.

He lifted the price controls on Wednesday, saying the ongoing harvest was easing pressure on supply.

Balisacan cited a food stamps programme launched last week, the country’s first, that provides 3,000 pesos ($53) a month for select “food poor” households, as well as families with pregnant women or nursing mothers.

He said the government was also giving a 10,000-peso cash subsidy to 78,000 farmers, a separate 5,000-peso financial aid to rice farmers and fuel subsidies to more than 74,000 public utility vehicles.

Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. chief economist Michael Ricafort said increasing inflation was particularly linked to rice prices, crop damage from typhoons earlier this year and a weakening peso that hiked import prices.

Rice is a staple in the country of 110 million people, but the nation cannot produce enough and is one of the world’s top importers of the grain.

Marcos suffered a 15-point drop, to 65 percent, in his popularity rating in a nationwide poll by the Manila-based independent outfit Pulse Asia last month, compared with June. The survey was made after the president imposed rice price controls.

A separate poll showed inflation was the top concern among those surveyed.

Meanwhile, a new Pulse Asia survey released on Thursday revealed that while 95 percent of Filipinos have increased their spending on food, more than half of the population has started eating less.

The new survey revealed that compared to 89 percent in September 2022, food is now 95 percent of households’ expenditures within the past three months.

“At the same time that nearly all adults (95 percent) report spending more on food in the previous quarter, a small majority of the adult population (53 percent) say they consumed less food in the same period,” said Pulse Asia.

Among locations, Mindanao was noted to have reduced its food consumption the most at 65 percent, with Balance Luzon following at 56 percent.

Meanwhile, 56 percent of Balance Luzon and 46 percent of Visayas ate less.

In terms of classes, Class E had the most people reduce eating at 63 percent. They are followed by Class D at 52 percent and Class ABC at 42.

According to Pulse Asia, among food, rice took the lion’s share of Filipinos’ food spending at 83 percent of total household expenditures, with non-food at 61 percent.

Electricity also took a large majority of household expenditures at 62 percent, while the next largest cost is gasoline or diesel at 22.

The following expenditures were listed at their respective percentages: water (16 percent), LPG (15 percent), transportation 13 percent), cellphone load (4 percent), recreation (3 percent), and others (3 percent).

The survey was conducted among 1,200 participants, and each was allowed multiple choices. The survey had a 2.8 percent error margin, with a 95 percent confidence level.

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