Inflation worst in Cagayan Valley, Bicol; transport costs blamed
MANILA, Philippines — While the inflation rate rose to a 32-month high of 4.9 percent nationwide in August, the situation in Cagayan Valley and Bicol was far more severe as prices of food and other essential goods and services increased by more than 7 percent in those regions.
Albay Rep. Joey Salceda on Tuesday called on the government to ensure that the flow of goods to Cagayan Valley and the Bicol Region remain unhindered even with border controls being implemented due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The inflation rate last August was up from 4 percent in July and breached the government’s target range of 2-to-4 percent.
Cagayan Valley and Bicol registered the highest inflation rates of 7.5 percent and 7.4 percent, respectively, among the 17 regions last month.
In contrast, the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) had the lowest inflation rate of 2.5 percent, followed by Central Visayas and Eastern Visayas with 3.1 percent and 3.5 percent, respectively.
Food inflation–or the rate of increase of in the prices of necessities such as rice, meat, fish and vegetables–was even more severe at 8.2 percent in Bicol and 8.5 percent in Cagayan Valley. The average rate nationwide was a lower 6.5 percent.
Salceda, an economist who chairs the House ways and means committee, said transport costs were a big contributor to higher prices in the provinces.
He added that “prices of essential transport such as tricycle rides in the countryside and jeepney rides have grown faster than what the numbers (reported by the government) may indicate.”
Since both regions are “side trips” for the main North Luzon-South Luzon transport circuit, “any constraints to the transport of essential goods and services tend to affect prices more pronouncedly in these regions,” Salceda explained.
He called on the departments of the Interior and Local Government, Trade and Industry, and Agriculture to ensure the unhampered flow of goods, especially food, to these regions.
“These two regions also have structural vulnerabilities, being in the Pacific seaboard and thus more exposed to typhoons that will inevitably come in the coming months. These are potential risks to prices as well,” Salceda said.
The poor were in general the most disadvantaged as they had to spend more to buy food and other essential items.
The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) on Tuesday reported that the inflation rate for the bottom 30-percent income households nationwide accelerated to 5.2 percent last August from 4.4 percent in July. It was only 2.7 percent in the same month last year.
Nationwide, Salceda added that the inflation rate for meat remained elevated at 16.4 percent despite efforts to import more pork.
“Although I recognize that it could have been worse if we constrained international meat supply, I am convinced that the answer to high meat prices is a combination of better international sources and a strong domestic supply base,” Salceda said.
He committed to help the DA get a significant increase in the funding allocation for livestock biosafety and feeds in the ongoing deliberations on the 2022 budget.
Salceda also urged the DA to accelerate its diversification of the country’s produce, noting that the focus on crops with serious challenges such as paddy rice “sometimes come at the expense of crops where we can have a competitive advantage such as corn.”
“As a result, although the country has significant potential in such crops, our domestic supply lags our needs for such crops,” he said.
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