• DA suspends Price Act implementation amid IRR concerns

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    The Department of Agriculture (DA) has temporarily suspended the implementation of Republic Act 7581 or the Price Act in relation to agricultural commodities amid concerns over its implementing rules and regulations (IRR).

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    Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said he has issued a suspension order for Administrative Order 7-15 which paves the way for implementation of the law.

    Alcala said the suspension order would allow stakeholders additional opportunity to raise their concerns on the IRR, which was supposed to take effect 15 days from the publication date, which was September 2.

    The DA chief said his department will conduct a series of nationwide consultations, or one meeting for each island region.

    “Immediately after the issuance of the suspension order, our personnel will conduct these meetings. It will be a second round of consultations since we have already conducted meetings prior to the finalization of the IRR in the fourth quarter of 2014,” he explained.

    Leandro Gazmin, DA assistant secretary for agribusiness and marketing, said that the consultations will focus on contentious areas such as profiteering issues and mechanisms on setting a suggested retail price (SRP).

    “Other groups also look at [some provisions of]the IRR as a price control mechanism. We just look at it as SRP—a guide—and not a price freeze mechanism,” Gazmin said.

    Gazmin likewise explained that whenever there are reports of profiteering, which happens when products are sold in excess of 10 percent of the SRP, the DA shall issue a show cause directive that will provide the concerned business establishment an opportunity to explain their side.

    “This IRR shall ensure that due process is observed,” he said.

    The official also clarified that all provisions of the published IRR are consistent with the Price Act, dismissing apprehensions about price freezing since the only official who has the power to freeze prices is the president.

    Under the IRR, the DA will create provincial-level or regional-level technical working groups, to be called the Bantay-Presyo Working Group, as the mandatory body for SRP supervision.

    “We’re veering away from national-level scope, considering local conditions such as calamities. Supervision of SRP should be regional and location-specific,” Gazmin said.

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