OSEÑA-PAEZ:Magandang tanghali, Malacañang Press Corps, and welcome sa ating press briefing ngayong araw, November 7.
During the sectoral meeting led by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. this morning, the National Economic and Development Authority and the finance department gave an update on the latest inflation figures which was 4.9 in October down from 6.1 in September. Main inflation drivers include rice, food and beverage services, rent for housing, electricity, gas and other fuel among others.
NEDA also presented proposed measures to keep food inflation low. And to tell us more about this, we are joined by NEDA Undersecretary Rosemarie Edillon. Good afternoon, Usec. Edillon.
NEDA USEC. EDILLON: Good afternoon. First, I’d like to read the statement of Sec. Arci Balisacan.
So, as mentioned, inflation eased in October 2023 but even so, NEDA assures the public that the government will continue providing assistance to the most vulnerable sectors as El Niño is expected to occur in the coming months and until the first quarter of 2024.
The Philippine Statistics Authority reported today that inflation in October significantly slowed down to 4.9% from 6.1% the previous month which brings the year-to-date inflation to 6.4%. And as directed also by NEDA Secretary that even as inflation has eased, it is crucial to continue monitoring the prices of commodities particularly food, transportation, energy amid global challenges such as the geopolitical uncertainties and also the El Niño. The slowdown in inflation was mainly due to lower food inflation which registered that 7.1% in October from 10% in September.
So, these were the following commodities where inflation decelerated: so, rice, vegetables, fish, bread and other cereal, sugar and then meat. And rice inflation slowed down following the onset of peak harvest and also the import arrivals. We also noted a steady supply of vegetables and this also led to a slower inflation of that commodity.
Meanwhile, the country is experiencing moderate El Niño which is expected to strengthen until the first quarter of 2024 according to the PAGASA. So this is expected to bring below normal rainfall across the country and may adversely impact agricultural production and also energy generation. We noted however that in December, there will still be a number of provinces that will be less likely to be hit by El Niño. And so, in the briefing this morning – that was actually the instruction of the President – to make sure that we target the production support to these provinces.
At the same time, it is important to ensure that the most vulnerable sectors of the society are protected and provided assistance especially while food prices remain high amid the expected El Niño. So in line with this, the DSWD is currently implementing the pilot run of the food stamp program which will be scaled up by mid-2024. And the Economic Development Group is also recommending the extension of the reduced tariff rates for the most favored nation under Executive Order No. 10, Series of 2022 until the end of 2024 subject to a mid-year review.
While we are providing short term measures to address these effects of inflation through subsidies and importation, we also need to address the longstanding challenges in agriculture and food production, and help our local farmers boost their productivity and resilience through investment in irrigation, R&D, post-harvest facilities and others.
Thank you very much.
OSEÑA-PAEZ:Thank you, ma’am. Questions? Start with Harley Valbuena, DZME.
HARLEY VALBUENA/DZME: Hi, good afternoon po. Usec, do we expect na patuloy po iyong pagbaba ng inflation rate natin in the coming months given that paparating na po iyong Christmas season natin?
NEDA USEC. EDILLON: In the coming months, well, historically as you said ‘no… parating na iyong ating Christmas season/holiday season and during this time, even demand actually increases because at this time, may mga bonus so madadagdagan ang ano… na demand.
What is actually important is that we protect iyong most vulnerable, we make sure that they are able to meet their needs kaya importante iyong ating mga subsidy program for them and also iyong sa food stamp program.
OSEÑA-PAEZ:Okay. Eden Santos, NET25.
EDEN SANTOS/NET25: Good afternoon po, ma’am. Siyempre sa mga mahihirap po nating kababayan ano, kapag sinabi nating bumababa iyong inflation rate, good news po iyon. Pero iba naman po iyong kanilang nararamdaman, iyong real po na nangyayari – sa mga palengke po ang mamahal ng mga bilihin, ang bigas wala pa nga iyong twenty pesos ‘di ba, iyong twenty-five hirap pang hanapin ngayon so nananatili pong mataas – paano po natin maipapaliwanag iyong mababa iyong inflation rate pero ang tataas po ng mga bilihin?
NEDA USEC. EDILLON: Oo. Iyong inflation rate kasi ay it’s a year-on-year change ‘no. So compared to, iyong the same period last year… tapos tinitingnan din natin kung ano iyong nangyari noong September – noong September, talagang mataas iyong inflation rate natin ‘no, 6.1%. So ngayon, on average, tumaas ang presyo ng bilihin pero by 4.9% lang – medyo mas mababa kaysa noong September.
Ang kailangan din kasi diyan is may karampatang increase in the incomes ‘no so kaya dito, papasok din dito iyong mga programa to make sure that we increase the employability of our workers, we improve on their skills kaya talagang ano ito eh, all-of-government approach talaga ‘to ‘no. This is also about attracting the right kind of investments para mapababa natin iyong cost of doing business, para kapag iyong mga goods and services that are being produced, puwede din nila maibaba iyong cost. So, ang daming kailangan na coordinated efforts pa rin dito.
EDEN SANTOS/NET25: Secretary, ibig sabihin po, kung hindi pala nagawan din ng paraan ng gobyerno or naipatupad iyong whole-of-government approach, baka mas tumaas pa/bumilis iyong pagtaas iyong ng presyo ng bilihin nitong buwan na pong nakalipas at sa mga susunod na buwan, parang ganoon po ba iyon?
NEDA USEC. EDILLON: Yes, tama ka roon ‘no. Kasi nakita rin natin, iyong latest na labor force survey, iyong result lalabas pa lang sa Thursday pero iyong mga dati nating nakita na results ng labor force survey, actually bumababa ang ating unemployment rate, so ibig sabihin dumadami rin talaga iyong nagkakaroon ng trabaho. So ang interest na lang natin ngayon is mapadami pa ito and then make it, you know, better quality jobs – iyon ang intent ng Marcos administration.
OSEÑA-PAEZ:Okay. Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN.
KATRINA DOMINGO/ABS-CBN: Good afternoon, ma’am. You earlier mentioned that study showed that there are certain provinces that are not likely to be affected by El Niño—
NEDA USEC. EDILLON: Less.
KATRINA DOMINGO/ABS-CBN:—less likely to be affected by El Niño, what are these provinces po?
NEDA USEC. EDILLON: I don’t have the list ‘no, nandoon lang sa map eh. Pero ang nakita namin sa mapa, iyong mga nasa Mindanao provinces; some of those in the Visayas … yeah, hindi rin sila masyadong maaapektuhan. But in any case, nasa website ng PAGASA itong mga maps na ito. Kaya ang ano nga namin … yeah, pati iyong mga nasa eastern part of Luzon as well.
KATRINA DOMINGO/ABS-CBN: Okay. Ma’am, you mentioned that the President’s directive is to target these areas for further support. What kinds of support should they expect to receive and when will it start, when will it last?
NEDA USEC. EDILLON: Ito iyong mga production support. Actually, lagi namang may support but this time, we want to target it to these provinces that will still experience normal rainfall most probably ‘no, even as late as December. So this means, ang production support na kailangan dito would be your high-yielding variety ng seeds and then iyong sa mga fertilizers and, of course, build-up on their ano, iyong sa irrigation din nila in the event na pagdating ng January, baka kailangan pa rin ng tubig ‘no so kailangan maayos iyong kanilang irrigation system.
Now, in the other areas, that’s not to say na in the areas, wala namang support. It will be probably be the case na like what we did in … noong dati pa, noong nagkaroon ng El Niño, na in the other provinces, iyong crops to be supported will be those na hindi masyadong water-loving, iyon. Kasi ang rice kasi water-loving eh, kailangan sa umpisa ‘di ba flooded siya dapat. Pero mayroong ibang crops na hindi kailangan ng too much water, hindi kailangan ng water-loving siya, so iyon ang magiging support doon sa ibang provinces.
KATRINA DOMINGO/ABS-CBN: Ma’am, follow-up. Do we have an exact figure as to how much the government will be allocating for the support of these provinces na medyo hindi maaapektuhan ng El Niño?
NEDA USEC. EDILLON: Right now, we don’t have that figure. Pero binigay na iyong directive ni Presidente doon sa ating bagong DA secretary, and ang kaniyang promise is he will work on it right away.
OSEÑA-PAEZ:Mariz Umali, GMA 7.
MARICEL UMALI/GMA7: Hi! Good afternoon, ma’am. Will the danger of the escalation of the Israel-Hamas war have an impact in our current inflation and the possibility of retaining this slow inflation that we have right now?
NEDA USEC. EDILLON: Yeah, we have actually done several scenarios na ‘no with respect to this Israel-Hamas war. And actually, even World Bank has also done their calculations. Right now, the consensus is that it will be contained – that’s the general consensus.
But in the event that it escalates, again, very clear tayo sa priorities natin: Number one is to make sure that our OFWs there are safe, that we can bring them back safely. And then, number two, kaya pinag-uusapan na rin, kailangan natin ng mga energy conservation measures, beginning with those in government, at kung ano pang mga—kasi ang maaapektuhan kaagad would be the fuel prices and then the energy prices.
With respect to energy, marami na rin kasing mga energy power plants, and transmission actually, transmission projects na naka-schedule na to be completed either this year or early next year. So ang naging instruction ay to make sure na they will be on schedule. So if that’s the case, then mami-maintain natin na limited iyong magiging impact sa atin but like I said, priority pa rin talaga natin iyong safety ng mga OFWs natin.
MARICEL HALILI/GMA7: Ma’am, you also mentioned a while ago that what is important is there is a continuous assistance that will be given to vulnerable sectors, and food stamp programs will continue to be there. But will this be very helpful that food stamp programs and assistance will … or the vulnerable sectors will continue to depend on these for the long-term?
NEDA USEC. EDILLON: We view this really as a temporary measure. So lahat naman ng assistance natin, it’s really a temporary measure during those times of crisis for instance. And so, this is not being implemented in isolation. So mayroon pa rin naman talagang mga development projects that are being implemented out there, even the Build Better More ‘no which can actually generate many jobs. Marami rin tayong mga pa-training programs out there. So there are a lot of other programs that are being given to them to make sure that they do not have to rely on this assistance solely.
OSEÑA-PAEZ:Okay. Jean Mangaluz, Inquirer.net.
JEAN MANGALUZ/INQUIRER.NET: Hello, ma’am. Correct me if I’m wrong, but a reduced inflation rate only means that the rise of the prices of goods and services are slowing down, tumataas pa rin in other words. So you mentioned that the employment of people needs to match this inflation rate. Would the NEDA support a legislated wage hike to match the inflation rate?
NEDA USEC. EDILLON: Number one, balik muna tayo doon sa ano—tama iyong pag-intindi mo sa inflation. Prices are still rising but not as much as it increased in September. Now, actually, dahil sa patuloy tayong lumalaki, incomes are also rising, demand is increasing, nagkakaroon talaga ng pagtaas sa presyo. So kung makikita ninyo iyong … sa DBCC, ‘di ba, iyong mga tina-target namin na inflation rate between two and four, lagi talagang magkakaroon at magkakaroon ng inflation kasi nga lumalaki iyong demand.
Now, in terms of iyong pangalawa mo na tanong, iyong on the legislated wage hike, we think that currently, actually the wage setting mechanism is working. Kanina, ni-report ni Sec. Laguesma that 11 actually of the regional wage boards have already issued iyong mga wage increases, and all of these were decided by consensus. So ibig sabihin, hindi nagkaroon ng mga matitinding ano doon, iyong ganoon. So naging maayos iyong usapan.
So, I think, it’s working right now because the regional wage boards, sila – as you know, it’s composed of employers, employees and then iyong government – so mas alam nila iyong situation sa region nila eh. Kasi you really have to balance the labor situation at saka iyong mga … the investment situation; the development, there is a plan to happen in that particular region, mas alam nila doon sa baba.
OSEÑA-PAEZ:Okay. Eden, again, Eden Santos.
EDEN SANTOS/NET25: Usec., kanina iyong sa rice, price of rice po ‘no. Since itong mga sitwasyon po na ito, patuloy pa rin naman iyong pagtaas ng presyo ng mga bilihin, hindi nga lang ganoon kabilis gaya noong September, iyon pong pangako ng Pangulo na 20 pesos kada kilos ng bigas, is it still possible? Sabi ng new DA secretary, imposible pa sa ngayon. Batay po sa mga pag-aaral ng NEDA, kailan po ba puwede talagang masabi natin na iyong presyo ng bigas na pangarap ng Pangulo para sa ating mga kababayan na bente pesos kada kilo, ito na?
NEDA USEC. EDILLON: Iyong sinabi ni DA secretary, actually mas alam nga niya iyon ‘no. So talagang ano, at this time, hindi pa talaga pupuwede.
Kanina nga, ang isang nabanggit nga ni Presidente, dapat kasi itong mga agricultural production natin, dapat commercial scale lahat eh para talagang magkaroon sila ng tamang investment ‘di ba. And then, you have really all these R&D na makaka-sustain kasi malaki iyong puwedeng gumamit. And so, I think, that is the general direction that we will be going to, kumbaga, may economies of scale ka.
So kung ganoon, going forward, yes, we can attain that pero iyon nga, marami pa ang kailangang mangyari muna with respect to improvements in R&D, iyong irrigation natin. Sa ngayon, ang ginagawa natin is iyong clustering of farms/farm consolidation para maging malalaki iyong, you know, farm sizes. We should be able to replicate that all across the country.
EDEN SANTOS/NET25: So is it possible or impossible before the end of his term?
NEDA USEC. EDILLON: My sense is that it’s an aspiration of the new DA secretary.
OSEÑA-PAEZ:Alvin Baltazar, PBS.
ALVIN BALTAZAR/PBS: Usec, magandang hapon po. Usec, we only have a few days to go for this year, November na tayo eh, ano ang assessment natin as, in terms of economic status ng Pilipinas for 2023?
NEDA USEC. EDILLON: For 2023, actually NEDA is preparing what we call the Philippine Development Report which essentially assesses iyong naging accomplishments natin in terms of the outcomes ‘no versus the targets in the PDP. It’s still not done. Pero kung titingnan namin, in terms of laying the groundwork ‘no kasi, alam ninyo, mayroon talaga tayong mga short-term interventions na parang mabilisang measures, parang halos … iyong sinasabi nga ng iba, parang Band-Aid ‘no. Pero at the same time, we are actually laying the groundwork for the more robust solutions. So, kung ang titingnan namin is iyong laying down the groundwork we have actually been doing that – marami na iyong nagawa doon.
So, in terms of those things and then also in terms of—ang mas alam naman kasi iyong mga macroeconomic indicators natin, then we’re doing okay; iyong ating mga fiscal targets, deficit and debt targets natin, debt-to-GDP ratios natin mga ganoon; infrastructure to GDP ratios – we are actually on track.
OSEÑA-PAEZ:Okay. Go ahead, Helen Flores.
HELEN FLORES/PHIL. STAR: Good afternoon po, Usec, just a clarification lang po. You mentioned about assistance to be provided to those who will be affected by El Niño – is this part of the ongoing subsidy program of the government or this is another budget for those you said will be affected by El Niño?
NEDA USEC. EDILLON: Sa ngayon kasi, it’s still the ongoing na mga programa kasi we expect iyong severe El Niño to happen in January and February so doon muna natin kumbaga tingnan natin iyon but I like said right now, as early as now we’re preparing so that that worst scenario will not happen. El Niño may happen pero may pagkain pa rin tayo – iyon ang gusto naming mangyari and that is why we are preparing na nga as early as now.
HELEN FLORES/PHIL. STAR: So, this is cash assistance po for families or for the farmers only?
NEDA USEC. EDILLON: Puwedeng cash assistance, puwedeng tulad noong mga dati kasi during the time of El Niño na hindi makapagtanim iyong mga farmers we actually…nagku-converge ang DA and DOLE and they actually implement iyong TUPAD na ang ginagawa nila diyan actually is cleaning of the canals, irrigation canals kasi tamang-tama walang tubig so puwede nilang ma-desilt talaga, you know fix the cracks para to make it better – may mga ganoong ano…nakahanda naman iyang mga iyan.
HELEN FLORES/PHIL. STAR: So, wala pa po tayong amount as of now?
NEDA USEC. EDILLON: Sa ngayon wala pa.
HELEN FLORES/PHIL. STAR: Thank you po.
OSEÑA-PAEZ:Okay. One more question from Alvin Baltazar.
ALVIN BALTAZAR: Usec, kasama po kayo sa sectoral meeting kanina?
NEDA USEC. EDILLON: Opo.
ALVIN BALTAZAR: May directive po ba si Pangulo tungkol sa mga present kanina at saka mukhang napag-usapan yata, Usec, iyong tungkol doon sa expenditures, spending ng bawat kagawaran kasi last August if I’m not mistaken parang nabanggit iyong mga underspending na mga government agencies. Ano po ba ang napag-usapan kanina sa sectoral meeting?
NEDA USEC. EDILLON: Yeah. Actually, tatlo iyong agenda ‘no so – one is iyong sa spending; and then second is on the food inflation; the third is on the non-food inflation. So, iyong sa spending, ni-report ng DBM iyong naging progress natin na actually for this third quarter mataas ang naging spending ng mga ahensiya. Well, number one, nakapag-submit naman ng mga catch-up plans and for many of them naitaas talaga iyong spending for Q3. So, we’re expecting, yeah, actually that’s until end of September na pala iyong datos nila. So, talagang we’re able to plug naman na those holes.
So food inflation and non-food inflation: Now, that one kasi is a report of the Subcommittee on Inflation and Market Outlook where if you remember the President created this group and it’s really to provide advice anticipating iyong mga developments either in the country and especially outside ‘no. So, iyon ang mga binigay namin na information at ito nga iyong mga naging directive is one, to really prepare for the El Niño; with respect to agriculture mayroon pa tayong gawin to ramp up production in those provinces that will be less likely to be affected this December – so, puwede pa talagang makapagtanim.
And then with respect to non-food inflation ang nakita namin na medyo kailangan nating bantayan is still the fuel prices which hindi naman natin masyadong magagawan ng paraan except really to manage the demand in which case it’s really energy conservation.
OSEÑA-PAEZ:Okay. Last few questions, Vans Fernandez, Police Files.
VANS FERNANDEZ/POLICE FILES: Yes. We’re facing this inflation, ma’am. Sa pagtaas ng inflation it follows the reason why kaya bumaba ang approval rating ni Pangulong Ferdinand Marcos sa ilang survey ‘no. How can you cope up with this or kindly have some reaction on this.
NEDA USEC. EDILLON: Actually, nananatili pa ring mataas iyong rating ‘no. Kung titingnan natin kasi iyong mga trend ng rating of previous officials, previous presidents talagang after the honeymoon stage medyo pababa kasi people build expectations ‘no. I think the important thing here is parang klaro naman si Presidente kung ano iyong mga ini-expect ng taumbayan sa kaniya and we also have a plan – very detailed iyong ating Philippine Development Plan and the different sectoral plans. So, I think down the road makikita rin ng mga tao naman iyong result noon.
OSEÑA-PAEZ:Also, Vans, the drivers of inflation are mostly global in nature which not just unique to the Philippines. Lahat ng bansa ngayon is addressing inflation issues.
VANS FERNANDEZ/POLICE FILES: Okay. Thank you.
OSEÑA-PAEZ:Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN.
KATRINA DOMINGO/ABS-CBN: Ma’am, a follow-up question, you mentioned na naka-catch-up iyong spending in the third quarter, what bolster the spending of the agencies? What agency is seen as the most improved in terms of spending? Ano pong ahensiya iyong pinakanag-improve in terms of spending?
NEDA USEC. EDILLON: Actually, the more competent agency to answer this is really the DBM. So, ang natatandaan ko lang doon is DPWH so in terms of the capital spending and then DSWD.
OSEÑA-PAEZ:We will release the details of that meeting in a little while. Okay? Last. Jean Mangaluz.
JEAN MANGALUZ/INQUIRER.NET: Hi, ma’am. You mentioned that the 4Ps or the poorest of the poor will be assisted. Will there be government measures for middle class income earners?
NEDA USEC. EDILLON: Yeah. I think iyong ating mga let’s say skills training programs actually hindi iyon namimili ng income class – so, that is available; iyong ating free tuition sa tertiary education – that’s also available to all, hindi namimili ng class iyon.
So, patuloy pa rin naman iyong mga assistance na iyon.
OSEÑA-PAEZ:All right. I think we’re done with our briefing. This concludes our press briefing today. Thank you so much, Undersecretary Rose Marie Edillon and maraming salamat, Malacañang Press Corps.