DA-led task force pushed to go after onion hoarders
MANILA, Philippines — The government should form a task force headed by the Department of Agriculture (DA) to run after unscrupulous traders and hoarders who could be manipulating the price of onions in the country, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said on Sunday.
Gatchalian, chair of the Senate ways and means committee, said he was surprised that the price of the agriculture commodity was almost P1,000 per kilo when he bought onions through a delivery app on Saturday.
He said the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and the National Bureau of Investigation should help the DA in looking into the matter and charge those unlawfully jacking up the price of onions with economic sabotage.
“In my analysis, there are people hoarding or keeping their inventory of onions to increase its price in the markets,” Gatchalian told a radio interview.
“When the prices soar, that’s the only time they will release their stocks to earn bigger profits… For me, what they are doing is clearly economic sabotage,” he said.
Not mainly due to smuggling
According to Gatchalian, it would be easy for the government to identify those involved in the importation of onions since the BOC and the DA had a list of companies and individuals authorized to bring in the commodity from other countries.
The unusual spike in onion prices was not primarily due to smuggling, he said.
“If there’s smuggling, then the price [of local goods] would be pulled down by the price of the smuggled items. But it’s not good for the government since smugglers don’t pay taxes,” he said.
Contrary to the DA’s claim, Gatchalian insisted that “there’s definitely a supply shortage.”
“That’s the reason why the price of onions is going up,” he pointed out.
Gatchalian said that while selling government-subsidized onions would help consumers in the meantime, institutionalizing such policy would not be sustainable.
Last week, the Department of Trade and Industry said it was already cooperating with the DA in addressing the high price of red onions.