Duterte: âNothing govât can do vs soaring pricesâ
He was silent on calls from various sectors for the suspension of the fuel excise tax imposed since the start of the year under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion. The fuel tax under the first phase of TRAIN has been blamed for the high inflation.
KJ Rosales

Duterte: ‘Nothing gov’t can do vs soaring prices’

Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) - October 13, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Saying he is also affected by inflation,  President Duterte warned the public of more hardships because the government has no control over the soaring prices of fuel in the world market. 

In his arrival statement yesterday, Duterte said difficult times are not over for the Filipino even if his administration has issued orders to address the rice problem.  

He was silent on calls from various sectors for the suspension of the fuel excise tax imposed since the start of the year under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion. The fuel tax under the first phase of TRAIN has been blamed for the high inflation.

Economic officials, who oppose the suspension of the fuel tax, have reported that the rice issue has contributed at least one percent to the country’s 6.7 percent inflation recorded last September.

“This is not the end of the story, guys,” said Duterte. “If things will move forward in accordance with the present calculations, we will have more difficult times ahead. If you want to go berserk, let’s all go berserk because I am affected by hardship too. That’s the problem now,” Duterte said in Filipino.

Duterte said he also feels the pinch of the rising prices of basic goods, which is why he is trying hard to address the problems the best way that he can.   

Rising inflation is used by critics against Duterte. The President’s detractors claimed that the country has fallen hostage to the prices of world crude.  

“Try to solve the problem. They said: Duterte’s pan de sal is as small as mung bean. What can I do? We don’t have oil,” the President said.

Before he left for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Leaders Gathering in Bali, Indonesia last Wednesday, Duterte said he was waiting for the recommendation of his economic advisers on the possibility of removing excise taxes on oil.

Friends with Trump

While Duterte is good friends with US President Donald Trump who has launched a trade war with China, the Chief Executive said he cannot deter the world’s top leader from imposing trade sanctions on Beijing.

“See, we have a limited market suddenly,” the President said, noting the country’s relations with Beijing. “Now, China buys everything from us. When I assumed my work in the national government, everything was all right already.”

Deviating from his early rants against the US, Duterte said the Philippines cannot just push the US away due to the two countries’ historical and bilateral relations.

“Americans, historically, and Filipinos have an umbilical cord, especially among the military, the police. They go there to train. So we have this brotherhood bond,” Duterte said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is planning an official visit to Manila next month.

Vegetable gardening

As this developed, Sen. Cynthia Villar pushed yesterday for urban vegetable gardening as the right community response to the high cost of commodities, especially food products, to ensure food-sufficiency among families. 

Villar, chair of the Senate committee on agriculture and food, said families should learn to practice urban gardening so they can produce their own greens and vegetables and save hard-earned money for other basic needs. 

“Inflation is high. Everything is so expensive now, especially our food products. Vegetables are among the food produce the cost of which has gone considerably up,” Villar said.

“But we can counter this. Urban gardening is possible even in the most crowded areas. You should seriously consider this new norm to ensure not only food on your tables, but the health of your family as well,” she said.

Villar made the comments before an audience of farmers and farm enthusiasts and hobbyists who attended the graduation and Harvest Festival training in Urban Vegetable Farming at the Villar SIPAG Farm School Las Piñas-Bacoor.

She said every centavo saved from growing vegetables can be used to pay for other expenses.

She also lauded participants in the training, which was sponsored by the Villar SIPAG in partnership with the Allied Botanical Corp.

Villar is the author of Senate Bill 141, or the Integrated Urban Agriculture Act of 2016.

Rice importation

Duterte’s directive allowing “unimpeded” rice importation should be a temporary measure, a party-list lawmaker representing the farming sector said yesterday.

“It should be scrapped in favor of a production-driven adequacy policy as soon as prices stabilize,” Butil Rep. Cecil Chavez said.

“At best, the policy of import-till-you-drop should be a temporary measure in answer to an emergency. We have to realize the great folly of relying on imports to fill our food security needs,” Chavez added.

Chavez said given the right government support, rice farming could produce the annual national consumption requirement.

“The problem is with the country’s economic managers who have belittled agriculture and rice production from the start of (Duterte’s) administration,” Chavez added.

Chavez pointed out that since 30 percent of the nation’s workforce is agriculture-based, it should push the economic team to make agricultural investments a priority.

Bread and flour prices

Bread and flour prices are expected to remain stable until the holidays, following a commitment from bread and flour associations to keep current prices, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said.

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said in a statement that Philippine Baking Industry Group (PhilBaking) has committed to retain the price of Pinoy Tasty at P35 per 450-gram loaf and Pinoy Pandesal at P21.50 per 250-gram pack during a meeting held on Oct. 11.

PhilBaking’s members, which include Gardenia Bakeries Philippines Inc., French Baker, Uncle George, Tiffany and Marby, produce the Pinoy Tasty to provide affordable bread in the market.

Given the availability of the affordable Pinoy Tasty and Pinoy Pandesal, bread companies are not raising prices of their brands to maintain market share.

A separate meeting was held with the Philippine Association of Flour Millers Inc. (PAFMIL) and the group has also committed to continue selling Harinang Pinoy flour at P670 to P680 per bag.

PAMFIL said competition is keeping prices low. – With Paolo Romero, Marvin Sy, Jess Diaz, Louella Desiderio

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