At least three senators urged the administration to arrest hoarders after President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. approved imposing a price ceiling on rice across the country.
Senator Francis Escudero said the President was empowered to impose a price ceiling under Republic Act 7581 as amended by Republic Act 10623. However, there were conditions that should exist before invoking such a power.
“[T]he invocation of the President’s power to impose a price ceiling for rice under the law, given its requirements, is that there is an emergency or that there is widespread ‘profiteering, hoarding or price manipulation,’” Escudero said.
“Is there or are prices just really high because of lack of supply or higher cost of inputs? If there is, why hasn’t [the] government arrested and/or sued anyone for such acts which are illegal?” he asked.
Escudero stressed that the first step in solving a problem is admitting that there is one. This is followed by finding solutions to stop it or prevent it from happening again.
He also told the government to “admit that there is widespread hoarding/profiteering and price manipulation [on] rice; arrest and file cases against the perpetrators; [and] allocate a bigger budget for agriculture.”’
“As I pointed out, a flood control budget of P255 [billion] vis-a-vis an agriculture budget of P181 [billion] will not cut it! Government should put its money where its mouth is if we are to be rid of this perennial problem regarding rice,” he said.
Senate Deputy Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros was skeptical over the President's move.
“Price controls are ‘cures’ that could be even worse than the disease. Ito ba ang reseta ng mga ekonomista ng Malacañang, o ng spin doctors nila? Medyo trabahong tamad ang price control,” Hontiveros said.
“If there are hoarders who want to reduce the rice supply in the market and jack up the price, then they should be caught. Wala pa bang nahanap na ebidensya ang NBI pagkatapos silang utusan ng Presidente bago mag-SONA?” she asked.
Last July 4, Marcos ordered the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to investigate the smuggling of onions and other agricultural products.
Even if there are no hoarders, Hontiveros said rice prices would still increase because of the government’s lack of action.
“Tataas talaga ang presyo ng bigas dahil kulang ang naging ayuda sa mahal na fertilizers," Hontiveros said.
"Hindi inasikaso ng Department of Agriculture na mabigyan ng insurance ang mas maraming magsasaka para sa tanim na binaha. Pinigilan ni Agriculture Usec. Panganiban ang mga gustong mag-import na pampuno sana sa kakulangan ng lokal na produksyon. At sa gitna ng kalamidad, walang bigas na kayang ilabas ang National Food Authority.”
She then reiterated her call to review the Rice Tariffication Law as well as the management of the Department of Agriculture and National Food Authority.
Senator JV Ejercito also reiterated his call to address smuggling, hoarding, and other similar illegal activities to ensure stability of food prices.
“What needs to be done is try address(ing) smuggling, profiteering, cartels and hoarding for the local agricultural industry to flourish and for the price of rice and other agricultural products to stabilize,” Ejercito said.
Under Marcos’ Executive Order No. 39, the mandated price ceiling for regular milled rice was P41 per kilo, while the mandated price cap for well-milled rice was P45 per kilo.
The current price of rice per kilo ranged from P45 to P70. — DVM, GMA Integrated News