THE business lobby said inflation can be kept in check with changes to agricultural policy, particularly with long-term reforms to address systemic production shortfalls in the sugar, rice and fishing industries.
“It’s not alarming in the sense that it’s obvious what is causing the problem. Rice, sugar, fish, vegetables, services and delivery, those are the factors driving prices… There are solutions for these things. The only thing out of our control is fuel,” Philippine Chamber of Commerce Industry, Inc. (PCCI) treasurer and honorary chairman Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis, Jr., said at a news press conference in Taguig City on Tuesday.
Also the president of Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc., Mr. Ortiz-Luis said according to studies he has commissioned, an 8% inflation rate is still manageable.
Nevertheless, PCCI regrets the impact of inflation on consumers and advised the economic team to set a timetable for its eight-point action plan.
“There must have to be a timetable of implementing this action plan,” PCCI’s Agriculture Committee Chairman Roberto C. Amores said during the briefing, noting however that these are only for the short-term.
On sugar, Mr. Amores said that the group is seeking a more liberalized importation scheme that would allow even domestic processors that use sugar as a raw material to bring in sugar at any time.
Mr. Amores, also the president of the Philippine Food Processors and Exporters Organization, Inc., said sugar shipments brought in by the government failed to resolve the price crunch as the imported sugar was resold at a price still unfavorable to food processors.
Sugar imports are restricted to international traders registered with the Sugar Regulatory Administration, usually those who have participated in the agency’s sugar export program.
PCCI proposes that domestic food processors directly import an initial amount sufficient to service the needs of 4,000 micro, small and medium-sized domestic food processors.
The PCCI also backs a more liberal rice import regime, in which tariffs will be levied on imports.
“The pending Rice Tarrification Bill in Congress is a welcome development that we support if it would mean helping stabilize the price of rice and ensure its sufficient stock, not to the detriment of our farmers,” Mr. Amores said.
In August, the House of Representatives approved on third and final reading House Bill 7735 or the Rice Tariffication bill.
For the fisheries sector, the PCCI is asking the Department of Agriculture to review the ban on the use of the modified Danish seine (MDS) method of fishing.
Mr. Amores said the ban has set back the fish supply by about two million kilos per day leading to “prohibitive” fish prices.
The government banned MDS due to the damage caused to sea grass and coral.
“It’s about time that our policy makers review and revise certain policies that are no longer contributing to the agenda of government,” Mr. Amores said. — Janina C. Lim