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Poor Filipinos bear brunt as inflation persists despite overall deceleration in Dec 2023 – Ibon

The focus on import liberalization by the Marcos Jr. administration to control inflation seems to be falling short, particularly when it comes to safeguarding the interests of the poorest 30 percent of households, according to Ibon Foundation.

The group argued that despite the overall tapering of December 2023 inflation, the measures taken by the government are not effectively protecting the economically vulnerable.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported a decline in year-on-year headline inflation from 4.1 percent in November 2023 to 3.9 percent in December 2023. 

The decrease was attributed to lower inflation in housing, water, electricity, gas, and other fuels (1.5 from 2.5 percent) and food and non-alcoholic beverages (5.4 from 5.7 percent). 

However, rice inflation surged to 19.6 percent in December 2023, the highest since March 2009 (22.9 percent).

Ibon Foundation highlighted that despite the general decrease, inflation for the bottom 30 percent income households increased from 4.9 to 5.0 percent. 

This rise was mainly due to increased inflation in food and non-alcoholic beverages (7.4 from 7.2 percent), transport (1.5 from 0.9 percent), and health (3.2 from 3.1 percent). 

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Notably, rice inflation hit 21.4 percent for the poorest households, exacerbating their overall food inflation.

The research group argued that government policies, including the Rice Liberalization Act passed five years ago, have failed to bring the promised relief. 

Contrary to expectations, the cost of well-milled rice soared to almost Php54 per kilogram, and regular milled rice exceeded Php48 per kilogram nationwide as of December 2023. 

Ibon Foundation criticized the continued emphasis on importation, despite its apparent failure to control inflation, as a disregard for the struggles of millions of poor Filipinos who are grappling with soaring food prices amid limited or no incomes.

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