Government stands firm: Rice price caps start today

by Sep 6, 2023Featured Article, News

MANILA, Philippines — Market manipulation prompted the government to intervene and impose a price ceiling on rice to control the spike in prices, President Marcos said yesterday, as he committed financial aid for retailers that would suffer losses due to the price cap.

Signed by Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin on Aug. 31, Executive Order 39 set the price ceiling for regular milled rice at P41 per kilo and P45 a kilo for well-milled rice nationwide, effective today.

“We cannot see good reasons why the price of rice will increase like this, exceeding P50 per kilo. But our markets are being manipulated so the government must intervene and that’s what we’re doing – we implemented price ceilings for rice,” Marcos said in his speech before departing for Jakarta, Indonesia for the 43rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit yesterday.

“Now, in our study, the only reason for this is that there are really smugglers and hoarders,” the President said.

Marcos stressed the price ceiling would not last long as the supply of the staple is expected to increase with the onset of the harvest season and the arrival of rice imports. “We need to explain that this (price cap) is just temporary,” the Chief Executive said.

He added that the government is readying financial assistance for rice retailers who may be affected by the mandated price ceiling. He stated that the Department of Agriculture (DA) and Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) would come up with a list of retailers and the corresponding losses they could incur due to the price caps.

Earlier in the day, Marcos, who is also the agriculture secretary, met with officials of several government agencies at Malacañang to discuss mitigating measures in connection with the implementation of EO 39.

During the meeting, Social Welfare Secretary Rex Gatchalian presented the proposed livelihood assistance or the Sustainable Livelihood Program for small-scale rice retailers and the proposed social safety net for affected rice retailers.

Latest data from the DA showed that imported commercial rice ranges from P47.50 to P57 per kilo while local commercial rice is priced slightly higher at P51 to P59 a kilo.

P2 billion assistance

In Congress, Speaker Martin Romualdez directed a committee of the House of Representatives to find ways to allocate P2 billion to help retailers cope with possible losses as a result of the government’s cap on rice prices.

“Our goal is to ensure that we can extend assistance to rice retailers who may be affected by this rice price ceiling, as it is a directive from our President aimed at protecting consumers,” he said, as he instructed chairman Rep. Zaldy Co to coordinate with the budget department.

The Ako Bicol party-list congressman, for his part, agreed and vowed to coordinate with Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Amenah Pangandaman to swiftly explore avenues for the allocation of the specified amount.

“We will promptly engage with the DBM to expedite the release of the P2-billion funds for our rice retailers,” said Co, chairman of the chamber’s 54-member Party-list Coalition Foundation Inc.

Romualdez also warned rice hoarders that their establishments will be shut down and business taken over as the government continues its efforts to bring down the price of rice in the market.

“Don’t try to scare the government. The government can take over and do the importing itself and just break even or subsidize. At the end of the day the people – over 100 million Filipinos – should not be overcharged and go hungry,” he insisted.

“We won’t stop until the President is successful in achieving his targets. We’re very serious about it. And we’re not going to stop here in Luzon, we’ll go to the Visayas and Mindanao. We’re going to hit every region,” Romualdez said, referring to their joint raids with the Bureau of Customs.

At the Senate, Sen. Cynthia Villar expressed support for the price cap.

“I think the President should implement a price ceiling as I don’t think traders will lose money even if there’s a price ceiling because the cost of rice has not risen really,” said Villar, chair of the Senate committees on agriculture and food and on environment and natural resources.

“The cost of producing rice in Vietnam is P6 per kilo of palay… you multiply it by two – the cost of rice is P12 per kilo. So you can sell it at P25 – you have a 50 percent margin. If you have to pay for transport and taxes – P38 is very reasonable,” she added.

Villar pointed out the country’s problem is with the cartel, where middlemen try to influence trading by creating an artificial shortage so they can increase the price of rice in the market.

Fines, imprisonment

Meanwhile, Bureau of Plant Industry director Glenn Panganiban called on retailers to comply with the price cap, as there are penalties awaiting the violators.

“We are continuously encouraging our retailers to comply as there are penalties for those who will not follow,” Panganiban said, noting that violators face fines and even imprisonment.

He said the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the Philippine National Police would help the DA and DTI in enforcing the price cap.?


Importers monitored

The Bureau of Customs is monitoring traders bringing imported rice into the country to ensure that the price cap ordered by President Marcos is properly imposed.

Customs assistant commissioner and spokesmsn Vincent Philip Maronilla said they recently had a meeting with rice importers.

“We are monitoring the cost of their imports and the duties that they need to pay so we can see the landed cost and make sure that they will meet the price set by the President,” Maronilla said during the Laging Handa briefing.

“We are monitoring so we can avoid traders who will say that they cannot meet price ceiling when in fact they can, based on government data,” Maronilla said. “We encourage those involved in trading and selling to comply for the benefit of the consuming public.” — Louise Maureen Simeon, Delon Porcalla, Cecille Suerte Felipe