SENATOR Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan on Friday said the 4.2% inflation in January 2021 was just an affirmation of what the Filipinos have been enduring the past months — spiraling prices of food, low or unstable income, joblessness, and stingy economic relief from government.
“Higher inflation is problematic for the economy, but most burdensome for the poor. Pabigat sa naghihikahos na. Kailangang kumilos agad ang gobyerno at punan ang kumakalam ng sikmura ng marami sa ating kababayan. Use the available funds that appear to be stuck in its coffers,” Pangilinan said.
“Ang pagtaas ng presyo ng mga bilihin ay dahil wala masyadong consumption o mamimili na dahil naman sa quarantine at sa problema ng suplay at produksyon ng pagkain. The government is primarily responsible in ensuring adequate supply of food and commodities especially during a national emergency,” he added.
Pangilinan, who as food security czar in 2014 was able to successfully bring down rice prices, said the government is wrong in thinking that a price cap on pork meat will bring down prices, saying such measure in effect penalizes the sellers.
He said three vital steps should be done simultaneously by concerned agencies: One, run after traders taking advantage of the low supply; two, transparent and proper importation ensuring just enough volume so as not to hurt the local industry; and three, increasing supply from local sources such as meat coming from the Visayas and Mindanao.
“Dapat nakikita na natin na mayroong mga sinasampahang kaso. Dapat nakikita natin na may coordination ang Bureau of Customs, Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Animal Industry at Department of Finance para transparent itong prosesos ng pag-iimport,” Pangilinan explained.
“Dapat makita rin natin iyong dagdag na supply mula sa local gaya ng Visayas at Mindanao. Dagdagan na ang ayuda para sa cost ng transport na manggagaling sa ibang probinsya na ASF-free,” he added.
Pangilinan also pushed anew for the immediate release of funds from the Bayanihan To Recover As One Act or the Bayanihan 2 as he noted sluggish spending by departments tasked to implement the stimulus program amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Citing figures from the Department of Agriculture, he said that to date, only 25 percent of the Bayanihan 2 fund has been utilized.
“Nandyan ang pondo, pero mabagal ang pagpapalabas nito. Isa ito sa dahilan kung bakit hindi tayo mabilis maka-recover sa pandemyang ito. Government must step in and provide stimulus,” Pangilinan said.
He said the government should even consider additional tranches for vulnerable households that continue to reel from lost livelihoods and income.
“Kung anumang ayuda ang maibibigay natin sa mahihirap, sa nawalan ng trabaho, sa magsasaka – hindi naman nila ito ibubulsa lang, ipambibili nila ito at babalik sa ekonomiya ang perang ito, ang mahalaga nagkaroon sila ng pantawid para sa kanilang pangangailangan,” he said.