The rise in consumer prices eased to 3.2 percent year-on-year in March from 3.4 percent in February amid slower price increases in the heavily weighted food and non-alcoholic beverages as well as utilities and fuels, household goods and transportation and communication, the National Statistics Office announced Friday. The comparative figure for March last year was from 2.6 percent.
The latest figure was at the same level posted in July last year. During the intervening months, yearly inflation peaked at 3.8 percent in August and was lowest at 3 percent in January.
Average inflation in the first quarter was 3.2 percent, which Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan said was well within the inter-agency Development Budget Coordination Committee’s target range of 3 to 5 percent for 2013.
“Lower prices of food (except vegetables), electricity and petroleum pulled headline inflation down in March, while an uptick in the prices of non-food items, particularly alcohol and tobacco, partially moderated the decrease,” he said in a statement.
Balisacan, who is also director general of the National Economic and Development Authority (the NSO’s parent agency), said that an ample supply of rice, corn, meat, fish, milk and fruits slowed down the increase in food prices.
The food index alone went up by 2.8 percent in March, slower than the 3-percent increase in February. Also, the non-alcoholic beverages index eased to 3.6 percent from 3.7 percent.
An easing of price increases in electricity and fuels was observed due to the reduction in the Manila Electric Co.’s generation charge last month as well as cheaper retail prices of domestic petroleum products.
Philippine inflation in March “remains lower than that of Indonesia (5.9 percent) but higher compared to Thailand (2.69 percent),” Balisacan said.
Earlier this week, Singapore-based DBS Group said it was seeing indications of an uptick in the next quarters even as it observed that inflation remained benign despite faster-than-expected economic growth in the previous quarters.
Stable food prices have been a key factor behind muted price pressures and the strength of the peso has also reduced imported inflation, DBS said.