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Government, Metro Manila to enforce measures vs high prices
Mayors have signed an agreement with the Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) to adopt a unified set of measures to arrest high prices of produce in public markets.
BusinessWorld/File

Government, Metro Manila to enforce measures vs high prices

Louise Maureen Simeon (The Philippine Star) - January 25, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The government has vowed relief to the soaring prices of food products by imposing stricter measures on retailers and a possible 60-day price freeze on pork, chicken, fish and vegetables in Metro Manila.

Mayors have signed an agreement with the Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) to adopt a unified set of measures to arrest high prices of produce in public markets.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar over the weekend said among the agreed strategies is the strengthening of the local price coordinating councils (LPCCs) in a bid to clamp down on overpricing by wholesalers, traders and retailers.

Dar said those who unreasonably jack up prices and take advantage of the tight supply situation in pork and vegetables should be stopped.

“Second, from hereon we will require them to register so we will know who they are, and thereafter monitor them regularly,” he said.

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, for his part, said the DTI will focus and improve on its price monitoring task.

“We hope that we can come up with a clear price list and corresponding price control, for the guidance and compliance of traders and retailers. It is an important thing to have a list of participants in the value chain,” Lopez said.

Meanwhile, MMDA Chairman Benhur Abalos Jr. gave assurance that Metro Manila mayors will help in the price monitoring, enforcement and adjudication process.

Other measures agreed upon include the identification of areas in Metro Manila where farmer cooperatives and associations can deliver and sell their products directly through the DA’s Kadiwa marketing program.

In support of the immediate and medium-term initiatives of the DA and DTI to stabilize food supply and prices, the mayors vowed to back the DA’s recommendation for President Duterte to impose a price freeze on selected food items such as pork, chicken, fish and vegetables.

In particular, the DA is pushing for a price ceiling of P270 per kilogram for pork kasim, P300 per kilo for pork liempo, and P160 per kilo for dressed chicken.Once approved by the President, a price freeze will be in effect in the next 60 days.

The sky high prices of pork are still due to limited supply as the African swine fever remains a challenge in the country especially now that the disease has crept into the Visayas.

To address the issues on ASF, Duterte issued Executive Order 105 which created the National Task Force on Animal-Borne Diseases, which seeks to undertake activities to prevent the entry of animal-borne diseases, control their spread and address other related issues.

As for vegetables, the low supply is attributed to past typhoons that wrought massive damage to farms in Bulacan and Nueva Ecija.

Meanwhile, Sen. Bong Go asked the executive department to step in and curb the rising prices of pork and chicken products by imposing a price ceiling.

“If possible, let government carry this load and unburden the public of the problem with high prices,” Go said in Filipino.

He said the DA is already planning to increase the volume of pork imports and augment local pork supply by tripling the Minimum Access Volume (MAV) to keep the meat prices in the country stable.

Go also lauded Duterte for signing Executive Order 123 modifying the rates of import duty on certain agricultural products under Section 1611 of Republic Act 10863 (the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act), further maintaining reduced tariff rates on mechanically deboned meat of chicken and turkey until end of next year.

Raising salaries not enough – Robredo

Yesterday, Vice President Leni Robredo urged the government to look into the recent price increases, saying higher wages demanded by labor groups would not be enough to address the problem.

“Raising the salary is not sufficient. We should fix everything to control the inflation,” she said in her weekly radio program over dzXL. “For me it’s not just the assessment of salary, there are a lot of things to address such as the supply and delivery of goods, which are contributory factors in the price increase.”

Earlier, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said minimum wage earners in 15 regions in the country can now file petitions for a salary increase.

DOLE-National Wages and Productivity Commission executive director Maria Criselda Sy said only workers in Cagayan Valley and Soccsksargen, whose anniversary of their last wage order is on March 16 and Feb. 2, respectively, could not yet seek a wage hike.

The country’s inflation rate rose to 3.5 percent in December last year, the highest since February 2019’s 3.8 percent, the Philippine Statistics Authority reported.

Robredo said many Filipinos did not feel the impact of the 60-day price freeze implemented from Nov. 18 to Jan. 17, citing how pork prices have soared way beyond the suggested retail price of P225 per kilo.

She also called for government assistance to hog raisers affected by the African swine fever.

“We should take this seriously as this means that many of our countrymen may experience hunger,” she said.

Taking the cue from the Duterte administration’s massive Build Build Build infrastructure program, a noted economist in Congress called on the DA to ramp up its ‘plant, plant, plant’ program.

Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, chairman of the House ways and means committee, said the government – and the private citizens as well – has to implement and “calibrate” the backyard gardening program as it will “fill subsistence demands and encourages backyard and household food sufficiency.”

“Strengthen Plant Plant Plant, focus on urban poor, rural communities,” he said, noting that the DA was allotted about P85.6 billion for its Plant Plant Plant “flagship program” for “modernizing agriculture” under the P4.5-trillion national budget for this year. – Helen Flores, Delon Porcalla

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