Aquino orders DOJ to build case vs garlic cartel
MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III directed the Department of Justice (DOJ) to craft a case versus the cartel responsible for the garlic price spike in mid-2014.
In his speech which was read by Justice Secretary Leila De Lima at the 1st National Competition Conference Tuesday, December 9, Aquino said the DOJ's Office for Competition (DOJ-OFC) was responsible for investigating the 74% increase in garlic in the Philippines from June 2013 to June 2014.
Aquino was not able to attend the conference because he was feeling “unwell,” Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said.
Garlic prices caught Malacañang’s attention when they reached a high of P287 ($6.45) per kilogram in June 2014 – a 74% increase within a one-year period and more than 100% increase from average prices.
About 73% of garlic demand is supplied by imports, while the remaining 27% comes from local sources.
The DOJ-OFC found that the drastic increase in garlic prices could be attributed to a single group that was on the receiving end of import permits, allowing them to corner supply and command garlic prices.
The initial report shed light into more anomalous transactions, and based on their findings, Aquino ordered the DOJ to develop the case against the cartel.
"We can look forward to charges being filed sooner rather than later,” De Lima read.
In September, DOJ, in a 32-page report said that a "cartel" reportedly controlled by 4 individuals, in connivance with Department of Agriculture and Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) officials, is behind the "staggering" spike in garlic prices in Metro Manila.
“These are the kinds of crooked practices and systems we want to abolish. The kind of persons that we want to catch and hold accountable for taking advantage of decent, hardworking Filipinos,” the President said.
Protecting people’s interest, specifically protecting consumers’ rights can be best done through competition policies.
“Honest competition in the market ensures that companies continue to seek ways to improve on their products and services in order to gain an edge over their competitors,” the President said, and added that no sector should escape the government’s watchful eyes.
The DOJ-OFC, created in 2011, has already taken on the full weight of this responsibility, Aquino said.
To date, it already received 31 cases; 12 counted as resolved while 19 are still undergoing the necessary investigative processes.
“… And I am hopeful that you can redouble your efforts and resolve them at the soonest possible time,” the President said. – Rappler.com
$1 = P44.52