Gov’t will help retailers affected by rice price cap – Romualdez | Inquirer News

Gov’t will help retailers affected by rice price cap – Romualdez

House Speaker Martin Romualdez

House Speaker Martin Romualdez (File photo by GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE / Philippine Daily Inquirer)

MANILA, Philippines — House Speaker Martin Romualdez on Sunday vowed to “root out” unscrupulous rice traders as he assured retailers opposing a cap on the selling price of the staple that the government was willing to listen to their concerns.

“We have to talk to them to come up with a win-win solution [so that] they won’t be adversely affected by the price ceiling,” Romualdez said in a statement. “The government is not numb. That’s why we want to listen to their concerns [to] try to find a solution to their fear that they will incur losses.”


The lawmaker recognized the dilemma of rice retailers who would be forced to sell the stocks they bought at prices higher than the ceiling set under Executive Order (EO) No. 39, which President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. issued last Friday to cap the retail price of regular-milled rice at P41 a kilo and P45 for the well-milled variety starting Sept. 5.


Romualdez said the government may have to provide financial aid, or “ayuda,” to retailers to cushion the adverse effects of the price ceiling on their businesses.

During his meeting with members of the Philippine Rice Industry Stakeholders’ Movement (Prism) on Friday, Romualdez warned traders who were allegedly taking advantage of the situation to earn more.

“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 told Prism representatives.

“Don’t try to scare the government. The government can take over and do the importing [of rice] itself,” he pointed out.

“If we find out that people are importing and hoarding and profiteering, we’re going to raid. And [the Bureau of] Customs will just seize it and give it to [Department of Social Welfare and Development], to Kadiwa, to the [Department of Agriculture] for sale at a much lower price point,” he added.

NFA role

House Senior Deputy Majority Leader Sandro Marcos, appropriations committee chair Rep. Elizaldy Co, agriculture and food committee chair Rep. Mark Enverga, and his vice chair, Rep. David Suarez, joined Romualdez in the meeting with the Prism members.


While he recognized the group’s efforts in selling rice to the public at P38 a kilo, Romualdez pointed out that certain Prism members owned the warehouses that the government recently raided in Bulacan province for allegedly hoarding and smuggling the staple.

He also urged the rice traders to help expose the “bad eggs” within their ranks who could be involved in “unscrupulous trade practices.”

According to Romualdez, retailers should not cite the commodity’s price in the world market as a reason for jacking up its selling price since imported rice, including those coming from Vietnam, accounted for only 18 percent of the country’s total rice consumption.

He said traders were expected to earn from the rice trade, but they should “not be too greedy” as the government may implement stricter policies to further control rice importation.

Meanwhile, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said rice merchants opposing Marcos’ directive should submit “sworn statements” officially informing the DA and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) of their present stocks that they might be forced to sell at a loss.

He said the National Food Authority (NFA) should then be mandated to buy the rice inventories at a price higher than the acquisition cost and resell these “to the public at the regulated price even at a loss, which it traditionally does.”

‘Timely’ imposition

Malacañang on Sunday defended the issuance of EO 39, arguing that it would not only reduce rice prices in the market but would also penalize and discourage hoarding.

A statement issued by the Presidential Communications Office quoted the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) as saying that “the imposition of a price ceiling on rice will address this issue in two ways: (1) it will immediately reduce the price of rice, and (2) it penalizes and consequently discourages hoarding, further decreasing the price of rice.”

The Palace said Neda underscored the “timely” imposition of the mandated rice price caps amid the continued surge of prices of the commodity nationwide and the looming effects of the El Niño dry spell and other international crises that affect the world market.

“We are facing difficult times, and concerning the agriculture sector, the El Niño Southern Oscillation (Enso) phenomenon is a major disruptor. The Enso has intensified the southwest monsoon and is expected to result in below-normal rainfall toward the end of the year in many countries along the Pacific,” Neda said.

“Moreover, the trade-restricting protectionist behavior of certain rice-exporting countries, such as India’s ban on nonbasmati rice exports to keep prices low at home, and the aggressive move of rice-importing countries to secure supply have resulted in a decrease in the volume of rice being traded and expected to be traded in the global market,” it added.

With all these factors affecting the prices of basic commodities, Neda emphasized that it was the government’s priority to ensure that the country has an ample supply of affordable rice.

Neda also emphasized that the country has enough rice supply for the third quarter, and for the rest of the year with the upcoming harvest season beginning this month and the additional import orders already secured by the government.

Farmers’ concern

“That said, we note that the price of rice has been sharply increasing over the past weeks, which is inconsistent with the apparent supply-and-demand situation. This implies that some are manipulating the expected impact of Enso to depict a shortage at this time,” it said.

Not only traders and retailers are opposing EO 39.

Farmers in Eastern Visayas, for instance, have expressed their apprehension on the imposition of a price ceiling on rice.

“With lower prices of rice in the market, traders will also buy our fresh harvest at a lower price to our disadvantage. This will not help us pay our loans,” said Rodrigo Alumbro, president of the Barangay Odiongan Farmer’s Association.

Alumbro said EO 39 meant traders could now buy newly harvested palay at P18.50 a kilo from P23.70 at the start of the year.

“It is the traders that dictate the price, not us farmers. We are at their mercy,” said Alumbro, urging President Marcos to look into the impact of his directive on farmers, a majority of whom have debts to pay.

“He should also provide assistance to us farmers like lowering the prices of pesticides and fertilizers,” he said.

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Ruben Latoja, president of the Pangpang farmer’s association in Villareal, Samar, echoed the same sentiments, saying the President’s order to put a cap on rice prices would only further push farmers into poverty.



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TAGS: Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Martin Romualdez, Philippine Rice Industry Stakeholders’ Movement, rice price cap, rice prices, rice retailers

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