Malacañang on Saturday guaranteed that the government is implementing proactive measures to tame the rise in consumer prices.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made the assurance after the country’s headline inflation further quickened to 4.7 percent in February from 4.2 percent in January.
February’s reading marked the highest inflation rate since January 2019, according to a statement by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).
In a press statement, Roque said the uptick in the country’s inflation is just temporary.
“Our economic managers see the upward inflation trend as temporary and concerned agencies in the Executive branch continue to check the prices of basic commodities while ensuring that prevailing rates are likewise fair to suppliers,” he said.
Meanwhile, Deputy Speaker and Antique Rep. Loren Legarda on Saturday sought the imposition of strict mechanisms to protect consumers in financial markets, as she called on fellow legislators to pass House Bill 6768 or the Financial Products and Services Consumer Protection Act.
“With the rapid development of complex and sophisticated financial products and services coupled with technological advancements and product innovations, cases of consumer fraud, abuse and misconduct have also increased. We have to build consumer confidence and trust in the financial system to promote stability, growth, efficiency, and innovation,” Legarda said.
“Thus, the passage into law of the proposed Financial Products and Services Consumer Protection Act is vital in safeguarding consumer rights, particularly in relation to financial markets,” the former senator added.
House Bill 6768, which Legarda co-authored, was passed on third reading in the House of Representatives last year.
The bill seeks to provide government financial regulators – Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Insurance Commission (IC), and Cooperative Development Authority (CDA) – additional powers for rulemaking, conduct of market surveillance and examination, market monitoring, enforcement, consumer redress or complaints handling mechanism, and adjudication to further enhance financial consumer protection.
The uptrend in last month’s inflation was driven by the rise in prices of heavily-weighted food and non-alcoholic beverages, which was at 6.7 percent in February, compared to 6.1 percent the previous month, the PSA reported.
The latest inflation rate was within the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ forecast range of 4.3 percent to 5.1 percent in February.
Roque assured that the government is taking steps to address the increasing prices of basic and prime commodities.
“We are intensifying efforts to ease inflation through immediate interventions, such as augmenting the supply of meat. We have implemented proactive measures,” he said.
The government’s interventions, Roque said, include President Rodrigo Duterte’s signing of Executive Order (EO) 124, which imposes a price ceiling on select pork and chicken products in Metro Manila for 60 days.
EO 124 implements a price cap of P270 per kg. for pork kasim and pigue, P300 per kg. for pork liempo, and P160 per kg. for dressed chicken.
Roque said the government is also procuring hogs from the Visayas and Mindanao and Luzon provinces that are free from African swine fever (ASF) for transport to major public markets in Metro Manila.
He added that there is also a transport subsidy for pork coming from different ASF-free areas.
The Department of Agriculture is also set to conduct a food security summit with local government units and the private sector to discuss ways to boost food production in the country.
Legarda said that HB 6768, which is now pending in the Senate, will help uphold fair financial market practices and protect consumers against exploitative transactions.
In addition, the bill mandates financial service providers to ensure that they design and deliver their products and services to meet the needs, understanding and capacity of both their markets and targeted clients. Financial service providers are also required to ensure transparency, disclosure and responsible pricing to give clients the leeway to review the products being offered before coming up with a decision.
The bill also promotes fair and respectful treatment of clients without discrimination on the basis of age, financial capacity, ethnicity, gender, religious and political affiliation, among others. Consistent with the Data Privacy Act, the bill also promotes the privacy and protection of the client’s personal data.
“I hope that this bill will soon be passed into law for us to immediately institutionalize consumer protection in the financial market. It is high time for us to update our consumer rights protection laws for these to be aligned with global best practices, ensure good governance for the benefit of our people, and help reinforce stronger confidence in the financial market as we usher our economy towards an equitable and sustainable growth and recovery,” Legarda added.