House Committee on Ways and Means Chairman and Albay Rep. Joey Salceda yesterday recommended measures to President Rodrigo Duterte to address price manipulation and profiteering in the rice trade sector amid decreasing palay prices.
In a letter to President Duterte, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez, Salceda said the Department of Justice (DoJ) should study the filing of cases of economic sabotage, profiteering and price manipulation against abusive traders.
Congressional hearings are now being conducted by both the Senate and the House of Representatives as to the effects of Rice Tariffication Law (RTL) following the lowering of palay farmgate prices.
On the part of the House of Representatives, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Tuesday vowed to increase the NFA’s (National Food Authority) budget for it to buy more palay from local farmers and further ease the crisis in rice.
Salceda said that the rice market anomalies could be addressed through intensified monitoring by the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Agriculture (DA), as well as the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) to include heavy importers, import records and warehousing receipts with focus on possible restraint of trade amounting to price manipulation and difference between farmgate prices as reported by the PSA.
According to the PSA, as of the second week of August palay prices have gone down to as low as P8 to P10.
Salceda said the DTI may also invoke Executive Order 913, which grants it adjudicatory powers to protect consumers from profiteering and price manipulation.
“The President, by virtue of his powers and the overwhelming and continued support of the Filipino people, is uniquely empowered to implement the aforementioned recommendations,” Salceda said.
According to the Salceda, the RTL can cure certain inefficiencies in the rice trade sector but does not address chronic inequities in the bargaining power between rice farmers and rice traders instead turns to the traders’ advantage.
“The reform essentially strengthened the bargaining position of the traders. That is the unintended consequence,” he further explained.
He said while the law addressed some of the inefficiencies in the retail market, most notably the shortfalls between supply and demand, it is not a total solution to the structural defects of the rice farm sector.
Despite this, Salceda said the law is good, saying its objective was to shift the supply curve to the right, thus bring more volume at lower prices and higher welfare gains.