Low global oil prices stand to benefit the Philippines in the long run but its near-term impact on domestic consumer prices may be offset by supply chain disruptions caused by the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown, economists said.

“Our country is not an exporter, so definitely we don’t suffer—we are an importer. Actually we benefit from this lower oil price, but as you know, it does signal that demand is really very weak in the whole world—that’s why prices fell,” Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua told a press conference via Zoom on Tuesday.“We are definitely a net beneficiary of this,” added Chua, who heads the state planning agency National Economic and Development Authority.

Global oil price futures dropped below zero for the first time as demand worldwide crashed when the coronavirus pandemic put a halt to economic activities around the globe.

However, Ateneo de Manila University economics professor Alvin Ang told the Inquirer that even last March, when oil prices were already on a downward trend, headline inflation was still above 2 percent “so falling oil prices might not necessarily lead to a faster fall in general prices.”The rate of increase in prices of basic commodities last month, at 2.5 percent, was the lowest during the first three months of 2020, as transportation costs declined.

“The March inflation print showed that despite deflation in transport costs, inflation still topped expectations because of the jump in food prices,” ING Bank Philippines senior economist Nicholas Antonio Mapa told the Inquirer.

Prices of food and nonalcoholic beverages increased by a faster 2.6 percent year-on-year in March as the enhanced community quarantine took effect during the middle of the month. —Ben O. de Vera

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