PHL inflation of 8.7% worst in 14 years

By Beting Laygo Dolor, Editor

MANILA – With the Marcos administration unable to stop the rise in food prices as well as home and office rentals, the Philippine inflation rate ballooned to 8.7 percent in January, the highest in more than 14 years.

The figure is well above the 7.5 percent to 8.1 percent forecast of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, which said previously said that inflation was sure to go down last month. (See earlier story on Business Page)

National Statistician Dennis Mapa admitted that the inflation rate was “quite steep,” coming as it did from the 8.1 percent recorded in December, 2022.

Mapa said a review of 13 major commodity groups showed increases in the prices of nine.

The Jan 2023 figure is nearly three times higher than the 3 percent inflation rate experienced in Jan 2022.

It was not only high food prices that consumers had to grapple with as housing and utilities also recorded a hefty increase in inflation at 8.5 percent, from seven percent the previous month.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr said that inflation would ease by this month, which was practically a repeat of what he stated the previous month.

He had previously said that runaway inflation was “keeping me awake nights.”

Because of the difficulties faced by most consumers, a recent study by the Social Weather Stations conducted in December 2022 showed more people felt poor, especially in regions outside Metro Manila.

While the SWS survey showed self-rated poverty was only 32 percent in the National Capital Region (NCR), it was 49 percent in the rest of Luzon, and was even higher in the Visayas and Mindanao at 58 percent and 59 percent, respectively.

This is an “alarming statistic,” said Asian Development Bank consultant Czarina Medina-Guce during an annual review of the SWS held in Makati City this week.

Considered a local governance expert, Medina-Guce noted that “the self-rated poverty, it’s about half everywhere except the NCR.”

She further noted that “there’s a huge spike for balance Luzon.”

She said the disparity continued to persist despite the thrust of the previous administration of former president Rodrigo Duterte, who frequently said that past administrations favored the NCR, leaving other regions behind in development.

It is ironic that more Filipinos feel poor essentially because food prices had been skyrocketing towards the last quarter of 2022, since President Marcos also serves as concurrent Agriculture secretary.

Marcos said he expects the inflation rate to go down starting this month, and that the 8.7 percent figure “is going to be as high as it’s going to get.”

He said the measures being taken by his administration “have not yet gone through the system.”

Marcos said the people “can see the lowering of the inflation rate by the second quarter of this year.

In a related development, Marcos called on all Filipinos to pay their taxes “on time” in order to help the country’s economic recovery.

“I encourage the public to pay the correct amount of taxes on time to support the country’s economic recovery and expansion so critical in this time,” he said.

Marcos failed to mention that his family has unpaid real estate taxes worth P23 billion. That amount has zoomed nearly ten-fold if penalties are included.