Lawmaker urges Duterte to sack economic managers amid high inflation

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 5) - A lawmaker on Thursday urged President Rodrigo Duterte to fire his economic managers after the inflation rate in August reached a nine-year high.

House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez said the President's economic team is "not capable to do what they are being asked to do." The team is composed of Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia, and Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno.

"We ask the administration to start removing the concerned or involved officials in this inefficiency and this time, we will ask the same. That its high time that some economic managers of the administration is not par with what they are doing," Suarez said.

House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's economic point man said the inflation rate zoomed because the government didn't do enough to address the rising prices of basic goods.

"August inflation at 6.4% is already self-inflicted largely because we did little or nothing. We can no longer blame market opportunists profiteers and rice hoarders," Albay Rep. Joey Salceda said.

The increase in prices of widely-used goods rose to a nine-year high of 6.4 percent in August, breaching the previous month's 5.7 percent mark.

Salceda called for more investments in the agriculture sector to help ease rising inflation.

"You cannot harvest what you did not sow. Or you reap what you sow. So if you did not invest, wala ka naman aanihin kung wala kang tinanim," he said.

He said the government should shift from helping consumers to supporting producers.

"Right now the policy is to help the consumers. Ngayon, kailangan shift to helping the producers, assist the producers. Kaya itong investment sa agriculture na pinapanawagan natin, paramakatulong ibaba cost of production ng farmers tulad ng mga small-water impounding," he said.

Salceda said the government should support farmers by lowering the cost of production, giving subsidy in buying hybrid rice, and providing incentives for using modern technology in farming.

"Katulad ng pag-incentivize ng paggamit ng bagong teknolohiya na nakapaloob sa hybrid rice. Pero kelangan din matulungan sila sa pamamagitan ng capital kasi mas mahal hybrid rice sa ordinary palay production. Increase mechanization," he said.

In a joint statement, economic managers vowed to implement agricultural reforms to help stem rising food prices.

They attributed the high inflation to rising prices of electricity, gas, and fuels, fish, rice, personal transport, vegetables, and meat.

"A committed effort from government in the agriculture sector to boost supply of key products and introduce policy reforms will bring down prices for all Filipino families," they said.

They said different agencies have agreed to implement measures aimed at addressing the escalating food prices, including easier distribution of imported fish, the release of 4.6 million sacks of rice nationwide, and establishment of markets where producers can sell products directly to consumers.

They would also recommend to the President the issuance of an order that will ease  National Food Authority licensing procedures for rice imports.

"Reforms in agriculture will continuously be implemented to address the supply issues causing the rise in food prices. We remain steadfast in putting forward and accelerating these measures that will address food prices for all Filipinos," the economic team said.