Duterte urged to act firmly on rice hoarders, price manipulators | Inquirer Business

Duterte urged to act firmly on rice hoarders, price manipulators

Countless hearings on rice hoarding and cartel held but no one has been jailed, group says
By: - Reporter / @kocampoINQ
/ 05:30 AM July 25, 2018

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, in his third State of the Nation Address (SONA) at the Joint Session of the 17th Congress at the Session Hall of the House of Representatives Complex in Constitution Hills, Quezon City on July 23, 2018. KING RODRIGUEZ/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

File charges.

This is the challenge of industry groups to President Duterte who, in his State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Monday, said he knew who were the rice traders engaged in illegal practices, including price manipulation and profiteering.


In his Sona, the President told rice hoarders and cartels to “stop messing with the people” by manipulating rice prices.


Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol earlier said speculators had been taking advantage of the tight supply of subsidized rice in the market, the rising oil prices and the implementation of the new tax law.

This resulted in about 10-percent increase in current rice prices compared to year-ago levels. Rice prices have been increasing for the last 26 weeks.
“I now ask rice hoarders, cartels and their protectors, you know who you are. Stop messing with the people… Consider yourselves warned or the full power of the state will be upon you,” the President said.

“The Philippines has always been a playground for scoundrels who do not consider the plight of others,” he added.

The statement has prompted Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (Sinag) and Bantay Bigas to challenge the President to file charges against these profiteers.

“If the President knows who these rice traders and hoarders are, his directive to the concerned agencies should be to file appropriate charges if there is enough evidence,” Sinag chair Rosendo So said.

The President has been saying he knew the people manipulating the prices,” but at the end of the day, nothing has changed,” Bantay Bigas spokesperson Cathy Estavillo said.


“There have been countless hearings in the Senate on rice hoarding and cartel, but no one has been jailed,” Estavillo added.

As of the first week of July, data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed retail prices of regular-milled and well-milled rice were now P41.07 and P44.69 a kilo, respectively. These were 8.77 percent and 6.84 percent higher than prices in the same period last year.

Similarly, wholesale prices of regular-milled and well-milled rice reached P38.69 and P41.87 a kilo, respectively. Compared to year-ago levels, these are 9.98 percent and 7.52 percent higher.

Mr. Duterte has called on lawmakers to prioritize the passage of the Rice Tariffication Bill, which he sees as a “long-term solution to lowering rice prices.”

According to the President, the switch to a rice tariff system —which would open the country to unlimited imports—from the current quota system—wherein the government sets a limit on the volume of rice imports—would bring down rice prices in the market by as much as P7 per kilogram and would lower inflation “significantly.”

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Sen. Cynthia Villar, who heads the Senate committee on agriculture and food, earlier said the chamber was aiming to pass the bill before the end of the year, noting that there was much to be considered to ensure the competitiveness of local farmers against the deluge of cheaper imported rice.

TAGS: Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, President Duterte, Price Manipulation, rice traders, State of the Nation Address (Sona)

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