Pascual confirmed by CA as DTI chief after three tries | Inquirer News

Pascual confirmed by CA as DTI chief after three tries

By: - Reporter / @MRamosINQ
/ 05:44 AM February 02, 2023

Alfredo Pascual. STORY: Pascual confirmed by CA as DTI chief after three tries

Trade and Industry Secretary Alfredo Pascual (File photo from the Senate Public Relations and Information Bureau)

MANILA, Philippines — The third time was a charm for Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual as he finally earned the approval of the Commission on Appointments (CA) on Wednesday after his confirmation was bypassed twice last year.

Pascual, a former president of the University of the Philippines, was one of the 14 members of President Marcos’ Cabinet whose endorsement had been put on hold by the powerful congressional body in September for lack of time.


He was bypassed for a second time two months later, this time, over questions regarding the transfer and demotion of 70 employees of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (Peza), an attached agency of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).


Pascual, 74, was the last one from the first batch of Mr. Marcos’ appointees to secure the endorsement of the CA.

‘National price gatekeeper’

“You will be our ‘national gatekeeper’ for the prices of goods in the market,” Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, also the CA chair, told Pascual before the body approved his confirmation.

“That’s very important. Many are taking advantage of our people by engaging in predatory pricing and in bringing in smuggled goods,” he said.

In endorsing Pascual’s confirmation, Iloilo Rep. Ferjenel Biron said the DTI secretary proved that “he is amiable, cultured, dependable and highly principled” as a government official.

“I am confident as to his holistic fitness to take on this challenging and noble task of leading the [DTI] to a vigorous and progressive future in line with this administration’s socioeconomic goals,” Biron said.

Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel, a member of the CA minority bloc, earlier opposed Pascual’s appointment as he accused the Cabinet official of “lying” about the issue raised by the Peza employees.


But he sang a different tune after the congressional body listened to the complaints of three of the four individuals who had challenged Pascual’s designation.

“I can see that you are in a very good health condition and I’m very sure that you are fit to head the DTI,” Pimentel said.

Fielding questions from Sen. Cynthia Villar, the trade secretary said he had already met with the officials of the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) to help stem the surge in the prices of onions, garlic and other agricultural products.

“We have discussed using the PCC’s power to address the issue regarding the connivance [among traders] that [results in] the increase in the prices of products in retail,” Pascual said.

“I think we can use the full force of the law… to stop this practice,” he said.

Price controls

Villar, chair of the Senate agriculture committee, told Pascual that the DTI should consider imposing price controls and being more aggressive in going after abusive traders who had been unreasonably jacking up the price of onions.

She cited reports that onions being sold at P600 per kilo in the markets had been bought by traders from the farmers for only P25 per kilo.

“If we allow this to continue, this will become worse. This is already too much,” Villar said, adding that the government should “do more serious [actions] about it because it has become a pattern.”

“I cannot imagine that these can be done without the tolerance of the government,” she said.

But Pascual said price controls may not be the appropriate regulatory intervention to rein in the spike in the retail prices of agricultural goods.

For one, the price of retail goods is primarily based on the acquisition cost of the commodities, he said.

“If we place control in the retail level, price control may not work,” Pascual said.

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“That’s why the solution we’re considering is to link farms directly with the institutional buyers to make the supply chain more efficient. This will also lessen the layers that make these goods more expensive,” he said.


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