By Mar S. Arguelles
LEGAZPI CITY --- Albay Rep. Joey Salceda on Tuesday said the high inflation that hit the Bicol region is a serious economic issue that should be addressed by government leaders.
Salceda said that the 9 percent inflation that hit Bicol is a cause for alarm since it is the highest in the country and Bicol is 4th poorest region in the Philippines.
“Inflation at 9 percent is an existential threat to development since it would increase the number of poor people and worsen hunger thus higher malnutrition which in turn results in higher stunting rate which deprives our youth of their physical and mental potential,” Salceda said.
Salceda in a press statement said inflation hit Bicol as prices spikes were noted in vegetables with 27 percent, fish 20 percent, corn 17.7 percent, and rice at 12.5 percent.
The Albay solon on Monday reacted to an assessment by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) in Bicol that brushed off Bicolano’s fears about the impact claimed that there was not enough basis to be alarmed as the prices and supply of food are available and its prices are lower as compared to other regions inflation (see related story).
Salceda, who is among the country’s respected economists, has recommended economic interventions to cushion the effects of the country’s rising inflation. These include:
•The National Food Authority (NFA) should release more cheap imported rice. Rice remains the driver of Bicol inflation since the commodity reflects a weight in the peoples’ consumption mix.
He, however, said that during harvest season starting Oct 15 this year NFA should intensify local purchasing to protect rice farmers.
•The Department of Energy (DOE) should also issue fuel vouchers for small fishermen to subsidize fishing activities and increase fish output.
•The Department of Agriculture through the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) should distribute free seeds especially those of short gestation vegetables.
•Launch a program that would intensify backyard and household growing vegetable gardening.
•The Department of Education (DepEd) should mandate vegetable gardening in all schools.
•DepEd to intensify feeding programs in basic education schools especially in moderate-high malnutrition municipalities.
•Barangay and SKs should focus on gulayan sa barangay and gulayan ng kabataan.
•The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Bicol should be prioritized in the release of P2,400 unconditional cash transfers.
•DSWD to intensify feeding programs in preschool/daycare centers
•Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) should increase Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (TUPAD) allocation to Bicol to provide temporary incomes to unemployed.