Malacañang on Tuesday said it will not allow unreasonable increases in the prices of basic commodities as the government activated its surveillance system against traders and groups that may be causing an artificial shortage of these products.
Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the government does not tolerate hoarding of food products that may affect their price and supply to the detriment of consumers.
He added that those engaged in hoarding and other unfair trade practices will be held accountable.
“Government is exerting all efforts to ensure stable supply of rice, garlic and ginger. Surveillance is being carried out to discourage hoarding and other practices that could lead to artificial shortage,” Coloma said in a news conference.
He noted that the National Price Coordinating Council led by Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo is closely monitoring price movements.
“While presently there are no suggested retail prices [SRPs] for these commodities, the council may prescribe indicative prices, if needed,” according to Coloma.
The Palace official said the government must address the food supply situation because “stable supply is the best deterrent to artificial shortage and unusual spike in prices.”
He also noted that rolling stores have already been deployed to sell food items.
Based on a report from the National Food Authority (NFA), Coloma acknowledged that the price of rice has increased.
“The National Food Authority is monitoring the price movement of rice. The latest increase is due to market forces associated with the low supply season. They expect the prices to stabilize when the harvest season stars in the next two months,” he said.
“On the prices of ginger and garlic, the Department of Agriculture and Department of Trade and Industry are monitoring the prices because there are suggested retail prices. We will not allow the prices to be excessive or unreasonable,” Coloma added.
But the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) also on Tuesday said consumers should “rise and protest” the Aquino administration’s incompetence in regulating rice prices.
“The continuing increase in rice prices is Malacañang’s own making. It is a result of the Aquino government’s anti-people policy of rice importation and trade liberalization, the government’s lack of regulation and control on prices, its coddling of rice cartels and smugglers and lack of subsidy to rice farmers, among others,” Rafael Mariano, the group’s chairman, said.
“We call on the people to hold Aquino mainly responsible for the skyrocketing prices of rice. The people have all the reasons to rise up and protest against Aquino’s ineptitude,” he noted.
Mariano urged consumers to join street marches and protests to be held by farmers next week “to demand, among others, a halt to rice importation, the abolition of rice cartels, genuine land reform and Aquino’s ouster.”
The KMP said there is no truth to media reports that high palay (unhusked rice) prices triggered the successive increases in rice prices.
It added that in the provinces of Isabela and Quirino, the buying price for “newly harvested or wet palay” is pegged at P17-P18 per kilo while prices of dry palay are pegged at P20 to P22 per kilo. In Bicol, the price of wet palay is P18.50 per kilo.
“Malacañang’s spin-doctors should stop blaming rice farmers in their failure to address rice price increases. The average P17 per kilo of palay at the farmgate completely belie claims that high palay prices triggered rice price hikes,” Mariano said.