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Saturday, December 9, 2023

DA ready to lift rice price cap on PBBM’s call

The mandated price caps on regular and well-milled rice could be lifted soon, a Department of Agriculture (DA) official said Tuesday, echoing the assessment made earlier this week by Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno.

In a Palace briefing, Bureau of Plant Industry (DA-BPI) Director Glenn Panganiban said global rice prices have slowly decreased, and local supply is expected to increase as the harvest season begins.

“Based on our parameters, we seem to be ready [to lift the price caps]. But of course, it’s up to the President to decide on it,” he said in a mix of Filipino and English.

He said the DA and the Department of Trade and Industry would continue to monitor the prices so they will not increase drastically again.

Panganiban said the harvest is expected to reach 1.9 million metric tons of rice in October alone.

DA Undersecretary Mercedita Sombilla said that rice production has increased with the country obtaining 52 days’ worth of rice supply by the end of September.

She presented the report during the sectoral meeting with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. — who is also the concurrent Agriculture secretary — in Malacañang on Tuesday.

Sombilla said that the positive indicators might signal the lifting of the price caps.

President Marcos signed Executive Order No. 39 on Sept. 5, imposing mandated price ceilings on regular and well-milled rice in public markets. Regular milled rice must not sell for more than P41 per kilo, while well-milled rice may not sell for more than P45 a kilo.

In signing the executive order, Mr. Marcos blamed the rising cost of rice on illegal importers, smugglers, and hoarders.

Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual noted that the prices of special and premium rice, which are not covered by the cap, have started to go down due to the harvest season.

“The elements that we need to see, the indicators are there that will point to possible lifting of the ceiling,” he said.

In the Palace briefing, Panganiban said the President is doing all that he can to give Filipinos a comfortable life.

He would not comment on a suggestion that a 14 percentage point drop in the President’s approval rating in a third-quarter Pulse Asia survey might be the result of the price caps.

“I cannot comment on that one. My take on that is the President is really committed to serving all. I think he is the President for all, not only for the farmers but also for the consumers,” Panganiban said.

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