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Philippines taps satellites, data science to soothe inflation

The Philippines’ economic managers are set to use earth observation technology to monitor supply of essential food commodities and help time imports, as inflation in the country remains to be among the highest in the world.

Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno on Tuesday, April 4, said that the use of technology and data would be among the tools of the recently formed Cabinet-level Inter-agency Committee on Inflation and Market Outlook, whose primary task is keeping inflation within target range.

Among the inflation panel’s tools is the Philippine Rice Information System (PRISM), a satellite-based rice monitoring system of the Philippine Rice Research Institute. It is able to create crop growth simulation models, estimate yields, produce season maps, and estimate the extent of flood or drought in an area. PRISM is set to produce data every 11 to 12 days.

For other goods like corn, sugarcane, and coconut, the government will be tapping SARAI or project Smarter Approaches to Reinvigorate Agriculture as an Industry, which uses satellites Sentinel 1 and 2. It is able to provide in-season crop forecasts and yield estimates, advise how to maximize crop growth and help address potential pest or disease problems.

SARAI will produce data every two weeks and has a budget of P100 million for the whole country coverage.

The government will also tap the Data Analytics Technologies and Operation Services for Space Data (DATOS). It uses remote sensing technology of various satellites to provide data on crops and aquaculture, as well as economic data using nighttime lights and roads. DATOS has a budget of P50 million and will provide data every two weeks.

Emphasis on data

Details on the tasks of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s inflation-mitigating body come as economists agree that monetary policy has done its part in soothing inflation.

Recall that the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas has aggressively hiked interest rates, yet inflation has remained beyond the inflation target of 2% to 4%. As of February, inflation has settled at 8.6%. This figure leads to economists concluding that non-monetary policy measures are slow, if not lacking.

Diokno admitted that inflation had worsened due to poor timing of importation. With a data-driven approach, Diokno hoped to avoid that.

“We want to introduce science into decision making and that’s what we’re going to do…. We need to increase production domestically and we need to increase productivity in agriculture, because if we compare our agricultural output with other countries, we are way behind,” Diokno said.

Finance Undersecretary Zeno Abenoja said that the satellite data, as well as data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, would provide the economic team figures to appropriately implement intervention policies.

Source: Rappler

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