MANILA - It may be "too early" to blame the higher-than-expected spike in consumer prices to tax reform, President Rodrigo Duterte's spokesman said Wednesday.
Inflation accelerated to 4 percent in January, hitting the top end of the government's target and exceeding analysts' forecasts on the first month of higher duties on fuel and sugar-sweetened drinks.
World oil prices are high and costs at the pump were not immediately increased until old inventory was depleted, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said.
"It is too early to have that conclusion," Roque told reporters when asked if faster inflation was due to the Tax Reform for acceleration and Inclusion or TRAIN.
Duterte's economic managers had said that inflationary effects from tax reform would be minimal and transitory, as they warned businessmen against profiteering.
The government implemented higher taxes on fuel, sugar-sweetened drinks and cars from Jan. 1 to offset a reduction in personal income tax rates and help fund Duterte's P8-trillion infrastructure program.
Citing government simulations, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said overall inflation might pick up by seven tenths of 1 percent due to higher oil prices by 2018.
On Tuesday, Coca-Cola FEMSA, which bottles and distributes Coca-Cola products, said it was laying off an undisclosed number of employees due to the "regulatory" environment.