Government to discuss lifting of rice price caps

Louella Desiderio - The Philippine Star
Government to discuss lifting of rice price caps
Rice dealers display rice and their prices at New York Street, Cubao, Quezon City on April 16, 2023.
STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — The government is likely to meet next week to discuss the implementation and lifting of the price caps on rice, according to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

“We’ll more likely meet again next week because he (President Marcos) did say he wants us to meet again and see the numbers, see the indicators, see the outcomes vs. the objectives of the price caps and then we’ll make a decision,” NEDA Secretary Arsenio Balisacan told reporters yesterday.

Balisacan said the agency would want to see the price caps on rice lifted soon.

“We all recognize that there are so many moving parts and these price caps could not be expected to last very long because that creates a lot of problems,” he said.

Under Executive Order 39, price caps were imposed on regular rice at P41 per kilogram and P45 per kilogram for well-milled rice amid increasing prices.

The price caps took effect on Sept. 5.

“The President will announce that once he has all the information that he is asking us to show, to study, indicators that will be useful to inform that decision. Hopefully, in the next, in a week or so, we can come up with those indicators and the President can make the decision,” Balisacan said.

Life terms  for hoarders

The House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading the bill expanding and strengthening the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016 or Republic Act 10845, which provides life imprisonment as penalty for hoarders and price manipulators.

House Bill 9284 or the Anti Agri-Fishery Commodities and Tobacco Economic Sabotage Act obtained 289 votes from administration lawmakers at past midnight on Wednesday, where rice smuggling, as well as other products, can be classified as economic sabotage punishable by life imprisonment.

“We want to send a chilling effect on these cartels that have been operating for decades. We really mean business this time. And our primary task here is to protect the welfare of the masses – provide them with the most affordable goods in the market,” the Speaker said.

Last week, Romualdez gave assurance that the measure, part of 20 bills listed by the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council for passage this December, will be approved on third and final reading before Congress goes on recess on Sept. 30.

The Speaker said once the anti-agricultural smuggling measure becomes a law, it would protect farmers and fishermen from smugglers, especially in times when prices are manipulated and agricultural products are hoarded.

He said the proposed law would also benefit the public in terms of stable prices as it would discourage hoarding and price manipulation.

“We have to work on and pass this measure as expeditiously as we can,” he added.

“Our goal is to make sure there will be conviction and final judgment on smuggling cases. As highlighted by our resource persons, the sad reality is that no one has been convicted of smuggling,” House agriculture panel chairman Rep. Wilfrido Mark Enverga said.

According to him, there are many salient features of the substitute bill, saying the “major thrusts are the expansion of the coverage of the current law to include other products that are often being smuggled and hoarded.” – Delon Porcalla, Bella Cariaso

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