Marcos rules out special powers for agri dep’t to address inflation

PRESIDENT Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. said on Wednesday that he sees no need to take on special powers to address inflation, adding that the government is undertaking measures to mitigate its impact.

He was responding to proposals from some legislators to give the Department of Agriculture (DA), which the President heads concurrently, additional powers to help stabilize rising costs.

“I do not think that it is necessary to ask for special powers. I already have the power to declare an emergency and to control the prices of commodities,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a DA event in Manila. 

The government is counting on more farm-to-consumer direct-sale stores to cut out the middleman and bring down food prices.

Mr. Marcos said the government is also addressing gaps in the food supply to keep food costs under control.

Inflation hit a fresh 14-year high of 8.7% in January, accelerating from 8.1% in December as food prices remained high due to supply issues.

Inflation may rise to as much as 9.3% in February, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas has said, citing the higher cost of liquefied petroleum gas, pork, fish, eggs, and sugar. 

“We can’t do anything about fuel. We can’t do anything about other inputs,” Mr. Marcos said. “But in the agriculture industry, if you disaggregate the inflation figures, it was 28% in the past. Now, it’s just 11%, so that’s a big deal.”

Last month, National Economic and Development Authority Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan said inflation may start to plateau in March with food supply pressures easing with the start of harvest season and the absence of typhoons so far this year.

Albay Rep. Jose Ma. Clemente S. Salceda said last year that Mr. Marcos should be given powers to incentivize production and provide loans and guarantees to agricultural suppliers.

The special powers he proposed included anti-price-gouging rules to deter the sale of essential goods at “excessive” prices and the power to initiate investigations into possible abuses in pricing energy and essential goods. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza