Diokno expects lower rice prices by year-end

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 5) — Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said he expects rice prices to decrease by the end of 2018.

In a media briefing Wednesday, Diokno said the high prices of the Filipino staple should not last long as he expects the Congress to pass the rice tariffication bill in a few weeks.

The bill aims to impose a general excise on all rice imports, which will ease entry of the product in local markets to help reduce prices. 

Once the measure is enacted, Diokno said he expects prices to go down by P4 to P7 per kilogram of rice.

"The price of rice will decline per kilo by about 4 to 7 pesos. So that will be felt maybe on the fourth quarter partially, but the full impact of that will be next year," Diokno said.

"As you know there's a filing of candidacy in October and it's harder to muster a quorum if they are running for office so they have to do what they are supposed to do, maybe within the next eight weeks," he added.

"So I'm confident they will act swiftly on very important matters."

Rising prices of the staple, including other food and fuel products have been linked to the country's August inflation, which hit a nine-year high.

Inflation or increase in prices of goods rose to 6.4 percent this month, the Philippine Statistics Authority said.

The data even exceeds economic managers' forecast of a 5.5 to 6.2 percent August inflation.  

READ: BSP, analysts expect inflation to hit 9-year high in August

The National Food Authority (NFA), as announced by the Palace Friday, said it will authorize an increase in imports for government-subsidized rice to help reduce market prices.

The Agriculture Department earlier issued an order to import round scad or 'galunggong' beginning September to also address the fish product's high costs.

The House of Representatives in August passed the rice tariffication bill, which was also certified as urgent by President Rodrigo Duterte during his third State of the Nation Address.  

A Senate counterpart of the measure is meanwhile pending at the committee level.

CNN Philippines Correspondent Ina Andolong and Digital Producer Alyssa Rola contributed to this report.