THE country’s inflation rate slowed down for the first time in six months in February, mainly due to the slower price increases in the transport commodity group.
The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported on Tuesday that the consumer price index (CPI) last month rose to 8.6 percent, which is slightly slower than the 8.7 percent recorded in January 2023.
This is the first time that the inflation rate slightly eased since August last year.
Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno said that the government expects inflation to continue slowing down in the coming months.
“We forecast that maybe by around October, it will go down to four percent, two to four percent level that the [Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas] expects,” Diokno said in a palace press briefing.
According to PSA, the downtrend was mainly due to lower price index in the transport sector which eased to 9 percent in February from 11.1 percent in January.
Kung naalala nyo nung start ng February last year, dito umakyat yung price nung gasoline at diesel. Average natin nung February 2022 ng diesel is about P57, so dun nagstart. Sa ngayon, nasa P66.5 per liter. Meron pa ring pagtaas but hindi na siya ganun kalaki,”National Statistician Dennis Mapa
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He also attributed the lower inflation to food prices, which slowed down to 11.1 percent in February 2023, from 11.2 percent in January 2023.
Lower price index in food was observed in vegetables, tubers, plantains, cooking bananas and rice.
Slower increases were also recorded in the prices of corn, meat, oil and sugar.
However, higher annual increases were observed in the prices of flour, bread, fish, seafood, milk, eggs, fruits and ready-made food.
Inflation slightly faster in NCR
The PSA also noted that while a slower inflation rate was observed at the national level in February, there’s a slight increase in the price index in the National Capital Region. The February inflation in Metro Manila increased at a slightly faster pace of 8.7 percent from 8.6 percent in January.
The main driver in the increase of inflation rate in the area was housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels commodity groups whose index registered a year-on-year increment of 7.7 percent during the month from 6.9 percent in January 2023,”Philippine Statistics Authority
Also contributing to the uptrend were furnishings, household equipment and routine household maintenance, as well as restaurants and accommodation
Meanwhile, the inflation or increase of price index for the bottom 30 percent income households remained at 9.7 percent in February.
Government efforts to bring down inflation
The administration has formed a new inter-agency panel that would keep tabs on the prices of basic goods and commodities and would determine the proper timing to import goods.
It would be a permanent committee that Diokno would co-chair along with the Socioeconomic Planning and Finance Secretary.
Diokno said the Inter-agency Committee on Inflation and Market Outlook would report to the President on a monthly basis on the demand and supply situation. It would recommend if there is a need to import.
He noted that the timing of the government’s importation had been off in the past, with the goods arriving during farmers’ harvest season.
“There should be a scientific, science-based forecast,” he said, adding that satellites could be used for this.
Diokno also said the administration would employ a whole-of-government approach to bring down the prices of basic goods and commodities.
It would focus on improving farm production and import goods if there is a deficit.
The government would also import fertilizer to improve agricultural production and fast-track government processing and clearances for imported agricultural goods.