Progress on 'P20/kilo' rice promise missing from Marcos' second SONA

Progress on 'P20/kilo' rice promise missing from Marcos' second SONA
Farmers from Lingayen, Pangasinan take advantage of the fine weather to plant rice seedlings on July 4, 2023.
STAR/Cesar Ramirez

MANILA, Philippines — In his second State of the Nation Address, President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. did not say if he’s making headway in fulfilling a major campaign promise: Bringing down the prices of rice to P20 per kilo.

It’s a promise that he has repeatedly vowed to honor in previous speeches, but was left out of his major report to the people that celebrated how inflation “is moving in the right direction” after becoming “the greatest problem that we encountered”.

Over a year into the Marcos administration, the prices of rice remain far from the level that the president had promised. Data from the Department of Agriculture — helmed by Marcos — shows that the prices of well-milled local commercial rice in Metro Manila ranged between P40-49 per kilo as of July 21.

Meanwhile, the prices of regular milled rice in the capital region ranged between P36-44 a kilo.

In past speeches, Marcos said rice is already being sold at P25 per kilo in government outlets through his “Kadiwa ng Pangulo” program, where major farm products are being sold at lower prices.

Experts have said Marcos cannot fulfill this promise without making the government subsidize a large portion of rice production cost, a move that would strain state coffers at a time of very tight fiscal space.

For Anthony Lawrence Borja, political science professor at De La Salle University in Manila, Marcos’ supporters can “easily brush off” his early promise of lowering rice prices “in the same way they brushed off former President Rodrigo Duterte's 6-month promises.”

READ: Duterte admits he was wrong about 6-month deadline vs drugs

“If the Marcos administration can secure an observable reduction or stabilization of commodity prices, even if it is minimal, while projecting the expansion of the Kadiwa program, then the impact of failure on public opinion can be cushioned by an appeal to gradual recovery and progress,” Borja said. — Ian Nicolas Cigaral

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