President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. directed on Tuesday the Department of Agriculture (DA) to intensify support to provinces less affected by the El Niño phenomenon to increase food production as the administration vowed continued assistance to the most vulnerable sectors even as inflation eased in October.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported that inflation in October significantly slowed down to 4.9 percent from 6.1 percent the previous month, which brings the year-to-date inflation to 6.4 percent. 

In a Palace press briefing, National Economic and Development (NEDA) Undersecretary Rosemarie Edillon said 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.

“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,” Edillon said on measures to counter the effects of El Nino.

“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.”

The country is experiencing moderate El Niño, which is expected to strengthen until the first quarter of 2024, according to the PAGASA. 

The dry spell will bring below normal rainfall across the country and may adversely impact agricultural production as well as energy generation. 

In line with this, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is currently implementing the pilot run of the food stamp program, which will be scaled up by mid-2024, according to the NEDA official.

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,” Edillon added.

The slowdown in inflation was attributed mainly due to lower food inflation, which registered at 7.1 percent in October from 10 percent in September. 

Commodities with decelerated inflation include rice, vegetables, fish, bread and other cereal, sugar and meat.
Rice inflation, on the other hand, slowed down following the onset of peak harvest, Edillon said, noting the steady supply of vegetables resulting in slower inflation of that commodity. | PND