Cebu at the forefront, like the Marines

TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag - The Freeman

If I remember correctly, I was rightfully convinced that then presidential candidate Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., would make good on a late campaign promise to bring down the price of a regular-milled rice to ?20 per kilo. I felt strange about believing just as Marcos must have done similarly on having to make such a promise.

I knew it would be impossible to bring down rice prices to such levels based on any normal interpretation of the promise. Bongbong must have felt the same way. Neither the economy nor agriculture were in states where they can be either nurtured or cajoled into easing up on their market-driven fiery trajectories just to play nice to a new president trying to tweak Philippine history just a little bit.

Everybody knew, the opposition knew, the communists knew, the Marocs supporters knew, the Duterte allies knew, I knew, as pretty strongly as Marcos himself did that the only way to bring down prices of rice to ?20 per kilo is to subsidize it and sell it at a loss. As your tight-wad lola must have told you, that is just simply not feasible in business.

And that is precisely the point. And that is precisely why we were wrong. The only way any government can bring down prices of anything is to stumble on a product or service, find them in overwhelming supply, and produce them and distribute them efficiently well. For government is never meant to be in business. It is meant to be of service.

Maybe it is the way we communicate things about government that makes people often antagonistic toward it. To say, for instance, that the government would be selling rice at a loss just to fulfill the election promise of a president often tragically pushes government against a wall. Communicated well, it infinitely would be better to say government is selling rice cheaper than it actually costs as a service to the people who otherwise could afford it.

The Cebu provincial government started selling last November 28 rice at ?20 per kilo as part of the Sugbo Markadong Barato program. Governor Gwendolyn Garcia herself made the announcement even earlier. Aside from the rice, food crops, and other native products and delicacies will be sold at the stores. The shops are in all LGUs throughout the province and will be open Mondays to Fridays.

The subsidized rice, however, will be sold only to indigents and poor families already identified by the LGUs and social workers. All other items are for sale without restrictions. Garcia said the Capitol allocated ?100 million to buy 80,000 bags from the National Food Authority. The LGUs will facilitate the selling. Another ?100 million has been set aside by Capitol to buy commercial rice to be sold at lower prices.

Governor Garcia is a very good friend of mine who has done so much not only for her own constituents but also for other people she knows are truly in need of a helping hand. Nevertheless, I will disagree with her a little bit with her characterization of what she is doing for the needy in Cebu. I do not think it is right or fair to her to say the province suffers millions in losses from the rice subsidies.

I think it is more precise to just simply say these millions are the cost of service because that is the mandate Cebuanos overwhelmingly provided her. With that comes the power to choose how she might serve and expend what it might take in cost for the service. We deal with costs in public service and losses in private matters.

It is no surprise however that Governor Gwen is at the forefront of this very important social service initiative of the national government. She is after all the leader of the richest province in the country and one of the most trusted allies of the president. When the president cannot do it alone he needs his allies to be there with him. But Gwen, it can be trusted, is one who does more than what is expected of her. She is a trailblazer and like the battery, she is the energizer.

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