Duterte keeping economic chiefs —Roque

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FILE PHOTO

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 6) — President Rodrigo Duterte is keeping his economic team despite mounting calls for their dismissal as prices of goods and services reached a nine-year high in August.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Thursday said the President remains supportive of his economic managers.

"Sa lahat ng gabinete (of all cabinet members), the economic managers have the strongest support of the President," Roque said in an interview on CNN Philippines.

The increase in prices of widely-used goods reached 6.4 percent in August, the highest since March 2009 when inflation hit 6.6 percent under the administration of now House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

The peso also weakened to a fresh 12-year low of ₱53.55 against the dollar while the stock market ended in the red amid disappointing price data from the Philippine Statistics Authority Wednesday.

READ: Stocks bleed out, peso slumps after inflation data

These economic downturns prompted some lawmakers to call for the relief of the economic team.

House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez said Duterte's economic managers are "not capable to do what they are being asked to do."

Suarez  was referring to Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, and Socio-economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia.

"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.

Pernia said he would not step down, adding the economic managers are "very well-qualified," "competent" and "fit for the job."

"There are just things that are beyond our control like the price of oil, crop, agriculture that are hit by weather disturbances at tsaka yung mga kulang na irrigation tayo, kulang ng mechanization ng farms natin (and we lack irrigation and other mechanization for farms)," he said.

Pernia said government is working to implement measures that will address shortage of cheap rice that's triggering the increase in food prices.

"Kasama sa mga measure na pinu-push namin yung allowing mga private sector importers na mag-angkat ng bigas para talagang dadami ang supply," he said.

[Translation: Part of the measure that we are pushing is to allow private sector importers to import rice so we will have sufficient supply.]