Prices of basic consumer goods and services in the Philippines were likely to have risen at a slower pace in March because of cheaper fuel, according to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

The latest forecast, however, has yet to factor in effects of quarantine measures taken against COVID-19 that have crippled supply chains nationwide.

In a statement, BSP economists said the inflation rate for March will likely settle within the 2.0 – 2.8 percent range.

“The sharp decline in the prices of petroleum products due to the significant fall in global crude oil prices contributed to the downward price pressures for the month,” the central bank economists said.

Separately, BSP Governor Benjamin Diokno offered a point inflation projection of 2.4 percent, which is lower than the February inflation rate of 2.6 percent as well as the government’s target range for 2020 of 3 percent, plus or minus one percentage point.

“The downward adjustment in prices for March was largely due to the plunging world oil prices,” he said.

He noted that as of March 25, the price of Dubai crude was down to $22.51 per barrel from a peak of $85.00 per barrel in 2018.

“In addition, food prices remained stable due to ample supply and favorable weather, and in the second half of March, the price freeze imposed by government on basic commodities,” Diokno said.

The central bank noted that the inflation rate was helped by the price freeze imposed on basic necessities by the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Agriculture in response to the public health emergency declared by President Rodrigo Duterte.

But electricity rates in Meralco-serviced areas were slightly higher during the month.

Edited by TSB

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