MANILA (UPDATED) — President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. on Tuesday defended his controversial order mandating a price cap on two rice types, saying this would help the public afford the staple commodity despite its soaring cost because of the El Niño.
Marcos said his new directive setting a new price range for buying palay from local farmers would help cushion the impact of his executive order amid their worries.
The President, who concurrently holds the agriculture portfolio, noted that different countries in Asia such as China, Singapore, Thailand, and Indonesia were already racing to have enough buffer stock before the dry spell, which he said caused a spike in rice prices.
"Lahat bumibili. Kaya sabay-sabay sila bumibili, sumasabay din ang pag-akyat ng bigas kaya kailangan natin lagyan ng price cap," said Marcos in Zamboanga.
"Lagi kong pinapaalala sa lahat ng kasamahan ko, hindi lamang kailangan na may sapat na pagkain. Kailangan may presyo na kayang bilhin ng taongbayan," he added.
In the meantime, Marcos said the government will continue to monitor rice prices and boost rice production.
Farmers must still have a good livelihood, which was why the National Food Authority (NFA) council implemented a price range for buying palay. The agency will also continue beefing up the country's buffer stock.
"Kaya diyan natitiyak natin, titingnan natin habang tumatakbo ang panahon, titingnan natin na papaano na ang magiging pangangailangan ng ating mga kababayan para hindi natin masasabi na ginutom na ang mga Pilipino dahil hindi sapat ang bigas," he said.
Marcos earlier this month approved Executive Order No. 39, mandating a P41 price ceiling for regular milled rice, and P45 for well-milled rice.
Marcos also set the new price range of unmilled prices on Monday, supposedly to give Filipino farmers "better income."
• Dry - P19 to P23
• Wet - P16 to P19
Meanwhile, Marcos during the event in Zamboanga City distributed around 1,500 sacks of premium rice to some Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4P) beneficiaries.
The donations came from the 42,180 rice sacks worth P42 million recently seized by the Bureau of Customs in Zamboanga due to suspected smuggling.
Malacañang said Marcos also turned over DA-Philippine Rural Development Project Investment for Rural Enterprises and Agricultural and Fisheries Productivity amounting to P6.72 million and P1.5 million worth of Kadiwa financial grant for a hauling vehicle, among others.
DSWD: FINANCIAL AID REACHES HALF OF RICE RETAILERS
Meanwhile, half of the 7,000 rice retailers identified by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) have already received the government’s financial aid worth P15,000, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said.
The DSWD began distributing cash aid 2 weeks ago to retailers amid revenue losses due to the price ceiling.
The Bureau of Customs (BOC) also reported that it has confiscated smuggled rice amounting to a total of 42 million pesos from various raids in different warehouses.
A total of 25 kilos were seized during operations in Las Piñas and Cavite recently, said BOC spokesperson Vincent Philip Maronilla in a televised briefing.
“We also found out that they were selling at a very high price," Maronilla said.
"So ni-refer na namin ang particular na issue na ito sa pagrenda ng mataas na presyo sa DTI at sa DA, habang binibigyan po namin sila ng 15 araw para mai-produce po ang kanilang import permits and documentations to prove na legal na pumasok itong mga bigas na ito sa ating bansa,” he added.
To prevent smuggling of imported rice, BOC said it is strengthening its links to suppliers from other countries so it can properly monitor the movement of these products.
“Nakikipag-coordinate kami with Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia pati po Myanmar, nanggagaling po diyan ang bigas, pati na rin po ang India para po malaman po ang supply na pumapasok sa atin," he said.
"Sino ang naisyuhan ng DA ng permit na suppliers doon na maaring magpasok ng bigas dito. Para po bago sila dumating dito may impormasyon na kami at maaaring magtake action, preventively to avoid smuggling,” he added.
— with a report from Joyce Balancio, ABS-CBN News
Video from RTVM