Marcos: Philippines to import more to deal with rising prices

OFFICE OF THE PRESS SECRETARY

President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. on Monday vowed to address rising food prices this year by importing more, saying the country’s record inflation keeps him up at night.

“That’s what I lose sleep every night over — how to bring down inflation,” he told a briefing streamed live on state television. “I’m determined to make sure that inflation starts to come down.”

Mr. Marcos said rising food prices were “alarming,” hinting at a government plan to import more.

“In the short term, the increasing prices of food products are alarming,” he said. “Whatever we do, we must import. It’s an emergency situation… Our production is well below our demand, therefore we must import.”

Still, Mr. Marcos said boosting local production is the best way to improve the lives of Filipino farmers who have to deal with climate change. “Hopefully, down the road, we no longer have to worry about nontraditional supply because we’ll be able to produce enough for ourselves.”

Mr. Marcos said being Agriculture chief is advantageous because it allows him to deal with issues at the agency directly.

Philippine Inflation hit 8.1% in December, the fastest since November 2008. It averaged at 5.8% last year, above the central bank’s 2-4% target.

Aside from prices, the Southeast Asian nation also has to deal with record debt, which hit P13.644 trillion at the end of November.

Mr. Marcos said rising debt should be outpaced by economic growth, which the World Bank expects to slow to 5.4% this year from an estimated 7.2% last year. “We will pull ourselves out of debt via growth.

The president went to Davos, Switzerland last week to attend the World Economic Forum. He said he would cut his foreign trips with state officials this year, citing the need to follow up on commitments his government had secured from previous trips.

Mr. Marcos said he would attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in November in the United States.

“APEC again is one of those that…a Philippine president should have to attend because it is the relationship essentially between the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations, the Philippines, and the rest of the world.”

The Philippines also struggles with geopolitical tensions, including its sea dispute with China.

On Saturday, the Philippine Coast Guard said the Chinese Coast Guard had driven away a Filipino fishing vessel at the Second Thomas Shoal, which is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

This was after Mr. Marcos earlier this month met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, where they talked about the sea dispute.

The Philippines would continue to file diplomatic protests against China if needed, he said.