'Set price cap on rice, other commodities'

by Recto Mercene and Marvin Benaning, BusinessMirror

Posted at Jul 05 2014 10:55 AM | Updated as of Jul 05 2014 06:55 PM

Party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna has asked President Aquino to impose price ceilings on rice, garlic and other basic and prime commodities.

Colmenares’s move came as price increases of food items have risen and continue to show indication of going down.

“We asked President Aquino to impose price ceiling on the price of rice and garlic, as well as other basic and prime commodities whose prices have been artificially jacked up by hoarders, focusing said intervention on traders or hoarders who sell their products at inordinately high price, to [the] detriment of the consumers, the farmers and even the retailers. Anyone who violates the price ceiling is immediately and criminally liable under the law,” Colmenares said.

“We also asked the President to order that all the imported rice confiscated by the Bureau of Customs to be given to the National Food Authority instead of being sold to private traders who will sell the same rice at jacked up prices,” he added.

“The prices of these commodities are artificially manipulated by hoarders. It is wrong for government officials to protect and defend these hoarders by saying that the jacked up price is normal as a result of lean months. Since the price is artificial, government must intervene and regulate the price,” Colmenares argued.

“This is what’s wrong with the Aquino administration’s policy of deregulation and liberalization by refusing to regulate prices, while allowing foreign products to come in to the detriment of local business. We hope President Aquino will grant our petition immediately, as the people are suffering for each day that government tarries in imposing price control. This will only get worse once El Niño sets in next month. Delubyo na itong nangyayari sa atin,” he warned.

Colmenares also asked the National Price Coordinating Council (NPCC) to impose a suggested retail price pending the resolution of his petition with Mr. Aquino.

Under the Price Act, only the President can impose price ceilings but the NPCC has the power to impose an SRP on commodities.

“While a price ceiling, which immediately penalizes a violator with a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment, has more teeth than a ‘suggested’ retail price, we have to ask for immediate relief from the NPCC since we do not know how long it will take for President Aquino to intervene or whether he would even grant our petition. The NPCC can act immediately on our petition,” Colmenares said.

“We want government to focus on the opportunistic rice traders instead of the farmers or small retailers. The small retailers do not have the power to manipulate prices all over the country, only big-time cartels have that power. We urge President Aquino to crack down on these hoarders once price controls are imposed. We also ask him to abandon his deregulation and liberalization policies and, instead, strengthen our local farmers and industries while regulating the market against price manipulators who jack up the price of food products, electricity or fuel to the detriment of the people,” Colmenares said.