Former House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Friday sounded the alarm against the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) raising tariffs on interisland shipping, saying now is “the worst time” for any increase in port fees amid a surge in COVID-19 cases and with communities in the Visayas and Mindanao still reeling from the aftermath of Typhoon Odette.
“It’s the worst time para magtaas ng taripa. If you look at the US and Europe, once na nakakabawi na sila sa kanilang ekonomiya, inflation naman ang problema, sobrang pagtaas,” Cayetano said in a media interview on January 14, 2022.
“Right now, talagang maghigpit tayo ng sinturon y’ung gobyerno – pero huwag tayong magtaas ng presyo,” the lawmaker added, saying he will lobby for lower tariffs during the remaining days that Congress is in session.
(It’s the worst time to raise tariffs. If you look at the United States and Europe, once their economies started recovering, inflation became a problem for them. Right now, government should really do some belt-tightening, but we must avoid causing price increases.)
The country’s inflation rate – the speed at which the prices for a given basket of goods and services increases – reached an average of 4.5 percent in 2021, breaching the 2 to 4 percent target band set by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.
Industry watchers warn that an increase in tariffs resulting from the PPA’s implementation of its Port Terminal Management Regulatory Framework, which essentially hands over control of tariff rates at the country’s ports to the highest bidder, will result in a wave of price increases in the country’s island provinces that are dependent on interisland shipping.
Cayetano, who is gunning for a Senate comeback in the national elections in May, appealed to policymakers to avoid levying additional taxes amid higher-than-usual inflation, pointing to the country’s P5 trillion budget in 2022 as sufficient for the state’s spending needs.
“Ang dapat style natin ngayon, tayo ang nagpa-pump prime. Rather than kunan mo ng kunan ng pera ang tao, medyo maglabas ka muna ng maglabas,” he said, referring to broad-based stimulus packages such as the 10K Ayuda that proposes to give P10,000 non-conditional cash grants to each Filipino family.
(Our strategy right now should be to pump-prime the economy. Rather than taking money from the people, we should instead be giving them money.)
The former House Speaker warned that inflation will only get worse as the country continues to inch its way towards recovery, slowed partly by the Omicron wave of COVID-19 that has caused daily case rates in the Philippines to reach all-time highs this month.
“Lahat na tumataas e. Gasolina, y’ung tinapay tataas ‘yan. Tapos kung magkakaroon ng face-to-face, sigurado kahit sa private schools may mga fees ‘yan, dahil hindi naman kaya ng mga school on their own na ayusin y’ung ventilation, mag-provide ng alcohol, and everything,” Cayetano said.
(The prices for everything have gone up – gas, bread, and if we’ll get around to having face-to-face classes again, I’m sure even private schools would have to increase fees, they won’t be able to fix their ventilation without extra cash, or be able to provide alcohol and everything.)
“So lahat ‘yan, dagdag-gastos talaga. What our neighbors did – Singapore, Japan, Korea – lahat ‘yan nagbibigay ng ayuda sa kanilang mga mamamayan para umikot y’ung pera sa ekonomiya nila,” the lawmaker concluded.
(All of that adds up to more expenses for the consumer. What our neighbors did – Singapore, Japan, South Korea – was give stimulus checks to their citizens in order to get money back into their economies.)