MANILA – Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez on Friday told representatives of the Philippine Rice Industry Stakeholders’ Movement (PRISM) that the House of Representatives will be unrelenting in its fight against rice hoarders and smugglers, and would do everything to help President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. drive rice prices down to reasonable levels.
“If you want to be part of the solution, you are with us, we will help you, we’re going to support you. But if you’re part of the problem, we will root you out,” Romualdez said to the rice industry stakeholders during a meeting at the Manila Golf and Country Club in Makati City.
He said the lower chamber is serious in its support of the President’s immediate goal of stabilizing rice prices and the Chief Executive’s long-term vision of achieving rice self-sufficiency for the country.
“We won’t stop until the President is successful in achieving his targets. We’re very serious about it. And we’re not gonna stop here in Luzon, we’ll go to Visayas and Mindanao. We’re gonna hit every region,” the Speaker said, referring to the joint raids conducted by the Bureau of Customs and the House on rice warehouses in Bulacan.
“If we find out that people are importing and hoarding and profiteering, we’re going to raid. And (Bureau of) Customs will just seize it and give it to DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development), to Kadiwa, to the DA (Department of Agriculture) for sale at a much lower price point,” he added.
With the Speaker during the meeting are House Senior Deputy Majority Leader Sandro Marcos, Appropriations Committee Chairman Elizaldy Co, Deputy Majority Leader Erwin Tulfo, Committee on Agriculture and Food Chair Mark Enverga and his vice-chairperson Rep. David Suarez.
The Speaker said that while they acknowledged the gesture of PRISM to make rice available to the public at PHP38 a kilo, he also noted that the target of recent raids in Bulacan rice warehouses suspected of hoarding and smuggling were members of the group.
He said the group could show their sincerity by helping the government unmask the “bad eggs” or members suspected of involvement in unscrupulous trade practices.
“We will call them in. We will be the one to talk to them on our terms. If we have to detain them until they tell us the truth, we will do that. And if we have to make sure they’re out of the business of smuggling, profiteering or hoarding, we’ll get them out,” Romualdez said.
He also said that traders cannot justify price hikes in the local market by citing world market prices, since rice imports, particularly from Vietnam, constitute only 18 percent of the total rice consumption in the country.
While it’s completely understandable for traders to earn profits from the rice trade, he said they should not be too greedy, warning that the government is willing to undertake even more drastic measures to regulate importation to prevent abuses by profiteers.
“Don’t try to scare the government. The government can take over and do the importing itself and just break even or even subsidize. At the end of the day, the people -- the over 100 million Filipinos -- should not be overcharged and go hungry,” Romualdez said.
In a statement released earlier, the Speaker emphasized that it is the duty of the House of Representatives 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,” the statement read. (PNA)