Inflation impact seen cushioned by SARO: exec

The release of the Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) will cushion the impact of elevated prices of oil and other commodities, a Cabinet official said on Wednesday.

“The timely release of the fund is crucial in the government’s efforts to help the poor cope with the continuous rise in commodity prices due to external shocks and other factors,” National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has approved the SARO worth P4.1 billion for the Targeted Cash Transfer Program (TCT) Program.

The cash transfer program is an important intervention to protect the purchasing power of the poor, which is among the priorities of the Marcos administration’s 8-point Socioeconomic Agenda, Balisacan said.

NEDA is tasked to flesh out the 8-point Agenda in the Philippine Development Plan 2023-2028, which NEDA committed to deliver by the end of the year.

“Our near-term goal as envisioned in our 8-point Agenda is to safeguard Filipinos against the most pressing issues today, which are rising inflation and the lingering socioeconomic scarring caused by the Covid-19 pandemic,” Balisacan said.

The budget is part of the second tranche requirements for implementing the TCT Program.

It will benefit over four million beneficiaries, who mostly belong to the poorest 50 percent of the country’s population.

Moreover, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is tasked to distribute the cash subsidy.

Under the program, the DSWD will also provide P500 per month for two months. Distribution will be through remittance centers, Special Disbursing Officers and the Land Bank of the Philippines.

Under the guidelines of the TCT Program, the DSWD will facilitate the distribution of cash grants amounting to P3,000, or P500 per month for six months.

Its guidelines were released through the Joint Memorandum Circular 1, s. 2022 of the Department of Finance, NEDA, DBM and DSWD.

Food supply

Meanwhile, NEDA Undersecretary for the Policy and Planning Group Rosemarie Edillon said in a forum recently that the government needs to ensure supply of food at affordable prices to reduce food inflation.

“We will be coming up with strategies that are forward-looking yet relevant to present issues as well. To reduce food inflation, we need to ensure an adequate supply of food at affordable prices,” Edillon said.

In the short term, with rising fuel and fertilizer costs, the strategy is to provide subsidies for fertilizers and fuel inputs to the producers of food, she added.“We will also push for productivity-enhancing infrastructure, research and development, as well as extension services.”

Furthermore, to reduce the vulnerabilities of certain segments of the Filipino population, there will be continuous enhancement of the nation’s health sector and social protection programs, she added.

The country’s headline inflation for the month of June 2022 was at 6.1 percent, data from Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed — a three-year high since November 2018’s 6.1 percent and October 2018’s 6.9 percent.

Inflation figures for June 2022 were higher than the 5.4 percent recorded in May 2022, and compared to June 2021’s 3.7 percent, the PSA said.

Moreover, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said inflation may have peaked already in June at 6.1 percent as it projected that the July inflation could hit the midpoint of 5.6 percent to 6.4 percent in July.

BSP Governor Felipe Medalla said on July 29, that inflation could settle at 6 percent, midpoint of the 5.6 percent to 6.4 percent forecast for July, but hastened to add, “or it could be a fluke.”

In some cases where inflation is thought to have peaked already, other problems prevailed. In the current situation, the war in Ukraine may have other “bad news” that could again raise inflation expectations, the governor added.

Programs and projects related to re-tooling and re-skilling opportunities will be implemented to increase the employability of Filipino workers.

These initiatives will rely on the Plan’s thrust toward digitalization, which President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. highlighted in his first State of the Nation Address, he added.

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