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DIPOLOG, Philippines – Despite facing significant losses, retailers of rice in Dipolog City have begun to dramatically reduce local rice prices in compliance with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s Executive Order 39. Concerns, however, are growing that the measure may not effectively address the rice problem.
“People are anxious because the President has credibility problems. He promised that the rice price would go down to P20 per kilo if he was elected, but it didn’t. Now it is difficult to believe that EO 39 is the solution to our rice problem,” said lawyer Anecito Young, the publisher of the local weekly Press Freedom.
The EO was signed by Marcos Jr. President to impose price ceilings on rice based on the joint recommendation made by the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).
As Marcos’ EO 39 went into effect on Tuesday, September 5, retailers displayed rice with prices ranging from P41 per kilogram for regular milled rice and P45 for well-milled rice.
The DA and DTI fielded inspectors to check rice prices throughout the city.
“I displayed rice at P44 per kilogram, but in truth, I’m losing nearly P200 per half a sack. Nevertheless, I accept these losses because they said it was for the benefit of the country,” rice retailer Ervin Amrado said.
Other retailers called the EO 39 a “joke,” but they added that they were complying for the time being.
They, however, warned that they might be forced to close down if the situation worsens.
Amrado appealed to the Marcos Jr. administration to cushion the impact of the EO on retailers and make good its promise to provide them with financial assistance.
Young told Rappler on Wednesday, September 6, that EO 39 would likely falter because it deals with the symptoms rather than address the root causes of the rice crisis.
Young said the government should first help the farmers by finding ways to reduce the costs of fertilizers and insecticides, facilitating rice production by offering affordable tractor and thresher rentals, and establishing sufficient irrigation systems.
He said the government should also support farmers in milling and transporting their produce directly to retailers, thereby eliminating middlemen, particularly those suspected of manipulating rice prices.
The DA and DTI have acknowledged that the country has enough supply of rice and that the sharp price increases were artificial, resulting from hoarding and price manipulation by some traders and rice cartels.
“I don’t know if this is a calamity situation (to warrant control of rice prices), but we have to follow our President’s order because there is really a surge in rice prices,” said Zamboanga del Norte Provincial Agriculturist Maybel Cruz Bustalino.
She said Zamboanga del Norte Governor Rosalina Jalosjos has instructed the mayors of the province’s two cities and 25 municipalities to reactivate their rice price monitoring councils to ensure compliance with EO 39.
“I am appealing to all Zanortehanons to support the President because it is for the benefit of the populace, but we have to balance everything – ensure just income for the farmers and retailers and at the same time defend the consumers’ buying powers,” Bustalino said. – Rappler.com