Inflation is likely to continue its downward path for the rest of the year given recent developments in the country, members of the government’s economic cluster said Tuesday.
“[W]e are optimistic that the downward path of inflation will continue for the rest of the year,” the Departments of Finance and Budget and Management, as well as the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), said in a joint statement.
The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) earlier on Tuesday reported inflation at 3.8 percent in February, marking the fourth consecutive month of deceleration.
“We, the economic managers, are pleased by the report that the country’s inflation rate slid further to 3.8 percent in February as price levels start to normalize and settle back to the government’s target,” the economic cluster said.
“This will be backed by the recent enactment of the Rice Industry Modernization Act (RA 11203), which is expected to bring down rice prices and cut inflation by 0.5 to 0.7 percentage points this year and 0.3 to 0.4 percentage points next year,” it explained.
The Rice Tariffication Law also allows the unlimited importation of rice as long as private sector traders secure a phytosanitary permit from the Bureau of Plant Industry and pay the 35-percent tariff for shipments from neighbors in Southeast Asia.
The law earmarks P10 billion for the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF), of which P5 billion will be allotted to farm mechanization and P3 billion to seedlings. The fund intends to ensure that rice imports won’t drown out the agriculture sector and rob farmers of their livelihood.
“Based on the monitoring of the Philippine Statistics Authority, prevailing retail prices of regular-milled rice has now declined by around PhP5.00 since it peaked in September 2018,” the statement read.
“Our work does not stop here. We must ensure that the change to a rice tariff regime—from government-led to market-led—is seamless and fast,” it added.
In terms of the expected El Niño which the state weather bureau PAGASA forecasts to come in during the first quarter, the economic team said the government must take steps to strengthen the agriculture sector.
“Around 19 provinces are expected to experience drought this year including Metro Manila,” the economic team said.
“Thus, the government must take pro-active measures to mitigate its adverse impacts on the agriculture sector in the immediate term and to increase its resiliency against extreme weather conditions over the medium to long term,” it added.
The economic cluster said it will also remain watchful of developments in the global oil market, as it noted that the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) should increase its efforts to cover more of the targeted beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pasada Program.
“Nevertheless, the economic team is upbeat that inflation is again starting to become manageable,” it said.
“While we constantly keep a close watch on the general prices of goods, we can now pay greater attention to programs that will further propel economic growth and help us reach our long-term development goals,” the statement added.
For his part, Bayan Secretary-General Renato Reyes noted that while the recent inflation figures are welcome, this should be made sustainable.
“Inflation could have been lower if the excise tax on fuel was removed. This comprises a staggering P9 per liter for gasoline. The erosion of income last year cannot be recovered by the easing of inflation now,” he said in a separate statement.
“We thus maintain that candidates seeking Senate and congressional seats should be asked whether they are in favor of removing excise tax on petroleum products,” he added.
The Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN), signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte in 2017, also provides that starting 2019, excise taxes for diesel be hiked by a total of P4.50 and those of gasoline by P9.00 under the second tranche.
“The TRAIN Law green remains an important issue even during the elections,” said Reyes. — BM, GMA News
Lalamove Philippines expanding services to Pampanga
Lalamove Philippines on Wednesday announced plans to expand its delivery services to Pampanga, citing a growing need for logistics services in areas outside of Metro Manila.
On the sidelines of the AVCJ Private Equity & Venture Forum, Lalamove Philippines managing director Dannah Majarocon said the company is looking to expand to several areas.
“We are looking at moving into another city by the first half of next year. It’s a toss-up, but we are leaning more towards Pampanga because it makes a lot of sense,” she said in an interview with GMA News Online.
“Our business clients in Manila want to have items delivered all the way to Pampanga and from Pampanga to Manila, plus you have another port that is in that area,” she said.
Lalamove offers delivery services in over 100 cities across Mainland China, Southeast Asia, and India. In the Philippines alone, the company has over 45,000 partner drivers catering to clients in Manila and Cebu.
“Eventually, we will move into other cities further south. We’re still deciding if we’re gonna go Davao or Iloilo, but the most logical next phase for us will be where the central business districts are,” said Majarocon.
The company is banking on the growing need for logistics services, as it has continued to register positive growth in terms of delivery orders.
“It’s hard to fully determine or to fully attribute if it’s because of traffic because the growth of Lalamove has continuously compounded every single week, every single month, ever since we started here,” she said.
“Growth has been ‘exponentially fantastic’ for lack of a better term, and I would attribute that more because we are addressing a need in the market,” Majarocon added. —GMA News
Megaworld to build P1.8-B mall in Pampanga
MEGAWORLD Corp. is spending P1.8 billion to construct a new mall inside its Pampanga township Capital Town.
In a statement Monday, the listed property developer said Capital Mall will offer 33,000 square meters (sq.m.) of gross floor area across three storeys. The mall will make use of materials recovered from the sugar mill owned by Pampanga Sugar Development Corp. (PASUDECO), which used to stand on the site of the township.
“As a tribute to the legacy of Pampanga’s oldest sugar mill, we will build the Capital Mall with its rich cultural heritage in mind. Other recovered portions of the sugar mill such as the giant bull gears, sprockets, and mechanical parts will become part of the mall’s interiors,” Megaworld Chief Strategy Officer Kevin Andrew L. Tan said in a statement.
The mall will have four cinemas, a food hall, and a shophouse strip. It will likewise feature a landscaped garden that will have restaurants and cafés surrounded by water ponds and century-old trees.
“Even the food hall will sport an industrial architecture highlighted by more mementos of the sugar central. The cinemas will also feature the 1960s charm and ambiance,” Mr. Tan said.
Megaworld will start construction by the first half of 2020, with target completion in 2022. Via www.bworldonline.com.
PH now Australian business’ top expansion destination
Australian businesses in Southeast Asia have picked the Philippines as the most preferred destination for their expansion, a recent survey showed.
The Philippines has become the most popular market for Australian companies looking to expand, after being picked by 24 percent of survey respondents in the latest edition of Australian Business in Asean.
This marked the first time the country became the top pick of Australian businesses since the annual survey began in 2016.
The survey said 80 percent of businesses in the region plan to expand their operations by 2023, citing the growing middle class in Southeast Asia as among the factors that fueled their bullishness.
“The Philippines is now the most prominent destination for future investments, overtaking Vietnam in 2017 and Myanmar in 2016,” the 2019 survey read.
“Philippine trade with Australia has increased significantly over recent years while there has also been growing Australian investor interest in the Philippines,” the survey said.
Traffic congestion in the country, however, was identified as a “high-impact constraint on business” by the majority of respondents, followed by government bureaucracy and the tax system.
More than one-third, or 36 percent, of Australian companies here in the Philippines have been operating here for more than two decades.
The survey said companies continued to be attracted to the market, citing that 14 percent of the respondents had been operating in the country for less than two years. —ROY STEPHEN C. CANIVEL