PBBM imposes mandated rice price ceilings

By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos

September 1, 2023, 9:20 am

<p><em>(File photo)</em></p>

(File photo)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has approved the recommendation to impose mandated price ceilings on rice in the whole country, in light of the surge in its retail prices.

Under Executive Order (EO) 39, inked by Marcos on Thursday and made available on Friday, the mandated price ceiling for regular milled rice is PHP41 per kg., while the mandated price cap for well-milled rice is PHP45 per kg.

As of Aug. 28, the Department of Agriculture (DA) reported that the price per kilogram of local regular milled rice in markets in Metro Manila ranged from PHP42 to PHP55, while local well-milled rice stood at PHP48 to PHP56.

The joint recommendation of the DA and the Department of Trade of Industry (DTI) to impose a rice price ceiling aims to ensure that the staple is “reasonably priced and conveniently accessible” to Filipinos, according to EO 39.

“The mandated price ceilings shall remain in full force and effect unless lifted by the President upon the recommendation of the Price Coordinating Council or the DA and the DTI,” read the EO, which takes effect immediately upon publication in the Official Gazette or a newspaper of general circulation.

The DA and the DTI’s recommendation stemmed from the current increase in retail prices of rice in the country, which resulted in a considerable economic strain on Filipinos, particularly the underprivileged and marginalized.

“The Department of Agriculture and the Department of Trade and Industry have reported that the country's rice supplies have reached a stable level and are sufficient owing to the arrival of rice imports and expected surplus on local rice production,” the order stated.

“Despite the steady supply of rice, the DA and DTI have also reported that the widespread practice of alleged illegal price manipulation, such as hoarding by opportunistic traders and collusion among industry cartels in light of the lean season, as well as global events taking place beyond the Philippines' control, such as the Russia-Ukraine conflict, India's ban on rice exportation, and the unpredictability of oil prices in the world market, among other factors, have caused an alarming increase in the retail prices of this basic necessity.”

EO 39 directs the DTI and the DA to ensure the strict implementation of the mandated price ceilings, monitor and investigate abnormal price movements of rice in the market, and provide assistance to affected retailers, with the help of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

It also mandates the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to intensify its ongoing inspections and raids of rice warehouses to combat hoarding and illegal importation of rice in the country and facilitate the confiscation, seizure or forfeiture of smuggled rice as may be warranted by the law.

The DA is also instructed to share with the BOC relevant information, such as the inventory of rice stocks, the list of accredited rice importers, and the location of rice warehouses.

EO 39 orders the Philippine Competition Commission, in coordination with the DA and the DTI, to implement measures against cartels or those abusing their dominant position in the market to ensure fair market competition and uphold consumer welfare and protection.

The Philippine National Police and other law enforcement agencies are also mandated to render necessary assistance to the DTI and the DA to ensure the immediate and effective enforcement of the price ceilings on rice in the country.

The new directive was issued after Marcos, in a sectoral meeting on Aug. 29, was briefed about the status of government initiatives to ensure sufficient rice supply in the country.

During the sectoral meeting, the DA reported its projection that rice supply for the second semester would reach 10.15 million metric tons (MMT), 2.53 MMT of which is ending stock from the first semester while 7.20 MMT is the expected yield from local production and only 0.41 MMT is imported rice.

The total supply would be more than enough to cover the current demand of 7.76 MMT and will yield an ending stock of 2.39 MM that will last up to 64 days.

Last week, the BOC raided and closed three warehouses in Balagtas, Bulacan, which stored alleged imported rice worth more than PHP500 million.

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) also reported that the rice inflation rate increased from 1 percent in January 2022 to 4.2 percent in July 2023.

The NEDA attributed the high rice inflation rate to rising demand and tight supply due to several factors, including efforts of other countries to buffer their supply in anticipation of El Niño and other international developments.

Section 7 of Republic Act 7581 or the Price Act authorizes the President, upon the recommendation of the implementing agency or the Price Coordinating Council, to impose a price ceiling on any basic necessity or prime commodity in compliance with the conditions set by the law. 

Meanwhile, Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez on Friday expressed the House of Representatives’ full support to the rice price ceilings imposed by the President, saying it is a “timely and necessary intervention to shield Filipinos from undue economic burden.”

“We, in the House of Representatives, stand firmly behind President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.'s decisive action to ensure every Filipino's access to affordable rice,” Romualdez said in a press statement.

“We deeply understand and empathize with the plight of our people, especially the underprivileged and marginalized who are most affected by the surge in rice prices. The joint efforts of the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Trade, and Industry, and the Bureau of Customs (BOC) in implementing this measure, while simultaneously addressing the challenges brought about by both external global events and internal market manipulations, are highly commendable,” he added.

Romualdez also vowed that the House will continue to intensify its comprehensive investigation into the alleged hoarding and price manipulation not only of rice but also of other basic agricultural and food products as part of its oversight function.

“We believe it is our duty to ensure a steady, stable, and affordable supply of these essential commodities for the Filipino people. The welfare of our constituents remains our top priority, and we pledge to exercise our mandate to safeguard their interests to the fullest,” he said.

“By collaborating closely with the Executive branch, we aim to strengthen systems and mechanisms that uphold consumer welfare, ensure fair market competition, and eliminate unscrupulous practices that harm our economy and, most importantly, our people. Together, we remain committed to a vision of a Philippines where every family has access to affordable and nutritious food,” he added. (With a report from Cielito M. Reganit/PNA)