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Thursday, December 7, 2023

All-out war vs. rice hoarders/manipulators

The Department of Social Welfare and Development, the President explained, has enough funds to help retailers recoup their losses

What the cap or ceiling on rice prices ordered by President Marcos Jr. really means is this: The days of rice smugglers, hoarders and profiteers are numbered.

It is nothing less than a declaration of war against those who have nothing else in their minds than to burn a hole in our pockets and hope they can get away with it.

Executive Order 39, signed by Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin on Aug. 31, imposes a price cap of P41 for regular milled rice and P45 for well-milled rice.

The price ceiling took effect nationwide last September 5.

But the government said the price ceilings are temporary and will stay only until the harvest season starts and rice imports begin to arrive by the middle of this month.

That’s the clear message we get from various statements from Malacañang.

Before he left for Indonesia early this month to attend the 43rd ASEAN Summit, the President gave assurances that while there he would constantly monitor the rice supply and price situation.

“We in the Department of Agriculture and other agencies do not see any compelling reason why rice prices should go up to over P50 per kilo,” he said.

“Our investigation has revealed that this is due to price manipulation by smugglers and hoarders.”

The President has been concurrent Secretary of the Department of Agriculture since he took office on June 30 last year. That’s because, he said, food security is among his top priorities.

“My approach toward economic issues is to avoid any intervention and let the market do its work. But (unseen) market forces are manipulating prices and that is why what we have done is to impose price ceilings for rice. We will continue to run after smugglers and hoarders.”

It is true, as he pointed out, that Filipinos now suffer from high prices.

There’s the northward trajectory of just about everything from fuel to basic food items.

Hence, the government has been forced to resort to price controls to help the people.

“This is a new system we are implementing. But we have been forced to do this because our people need help. We are doing this so that Filipinos do not have to spend so much for rice. There’s really no reason why rice prices should go up,” he told media.

Marcos pointed out: “We know there will be retailers who stand to lose money because they bought rice at higher prices. Now they will have to sell their rice stocks at lower prices.

“We are well aware of this but the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Agriculture are drawing up a list of our rice retailers and the associations of rice retailers.

“They are calculating how much the retailers would lose because of the price cap.”

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the President explained, has enough funds to help retailers recoup their losses.

The latest development here is that ayuda to the tune of P15,000 would be available for rice retailers who can prove that they sold rice at the required price ceilings.

Make no mistake about the government’s political will.

It will definitely run after violators of the rice price ceiling ordered by Malacañang, according to Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla.

“We are now forming teams that will visit various markets, and we are currently studying the various possible cases that can be filed against those who do not comply with the mandated rice price ceiling,” he said.

The cases that can be filed against violators include economic sabotage, which is a non-bailable offense, and profiteering.

At the same time, the DOJ is also looking at the supply side of the issue.

“We are studying the supply side to understand where these people are coming from, the basis for the high pricing, and why it’s happening because we need to understand the root of the problem.”

But even if, as expected, there is opposition to the price ceilings from certain groups, the Presidential Communications Office (PCO) has gathered those in the MIMAROPA and Eastern Visayas regions have already expressed support for the government move.

We have the Bantay Buklura ARBs and Farmers’ Association in MIMAROPA who said they support the government’s decision to implement the mandated price ceilings on rice as they hope the price of the food staple will be made affordable to ordinary Filipinos.

The Palawan ARC Cooperative Federation also expressed its support for the implementation of the mandated rice price caps as this would eliminate the unhealthy competition among rice traders who are taking advantage of the situation.

They said this would get rid of the abusive cartels who are playing a big part in the manipulation of rice prices.

The Malsada Pisco farmers’ group in Leyte also welcomed the price cap since consumers will now be able to buy rice products at a reasonable price.

“We support the mandated price ceilings on rice because this is a big help for us farmers,” the San Isidro Organic Farmers Association said in the vernacular.


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