Escudero wants DTI to put a cap on price of rice
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) should put a cap on the price of rice as importers and traders are already taking advantage of the rice shortage in some parts of the country, Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero urged on Friday.
“Government, thru the DTI, should immediately impose a price ceiling on rice. It is overpriced by P4 to P13, and up to P28 to P38 in Zamboanga City, per kilo and importers/traders are making a killing at the expense of our people and economy,” Escudero said in a statement.
The Zamboanga City government was earlier forced to declare a state of calamity due to a rice shortage that pushed prices to go as high as P50 to P70 per kilo.
However, Department of Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said the crisis was “officially over” after the supply had already stabilized due to the arrival of fresh stocks from the National Food Authority and nearby provinces where harvest has already started.
Meanwhile, Escudero is also asking the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to probe if anyone committed economic sabotage in light of the rice crisis in some parts of the country.
“I also urge the DOJ/NBI to look into possible violations of R.A. No. 10845, specifically Section 3 thereof on “economic sabotage” committed by some unscrupulous importers or traders. We cannot allow this situation to subsist and go unchecked,” Escudero said.
Republic Act No. 10845 or the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016 states that the government must protect the agriculture sector, especially the farmers from “traders and importers, who by their illegal importation of agriculture products, especially rice, significantly affect the production, availability of supply and stability of prices, and the food security of the State.”
Under Section 3, “the crime of large-scale agricultural smuggling as economic sabotage, involving sugar, corn, pork, poultry, garlic, onion, carrots, fish, and cruciferous vegetables, in its raw state, or which have undergone the simple processes of preparation or preservation for the market, with a minimum amount of one million pesos (P1,000,000.00), or rice, with a minimum amount of ten million pesos (P10,000,000.00) as valued by the Bureau of Customs (BOC).”
Economic sabotage can be committed through importation without and/or using fictitious or fraudulent import permits, as well as transporting or storing the agricultural products subject to economic sabotage regardless of quantity, to name a few.
Escudero also lambasted the “undeniable undervaluation” in most import documents for rice, which clearly violates Section 3 of R.A. No. 10845.
“And yet sell it to the market overpriced. This is not only illegal, it’s downright avaricious and immoral!” he lamented. /vvp
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