President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Saturday expressed optimism that the early harvest of palay (unhusked rice) would help bring down the prices of rice.
Marcos also reiterated his decision to order the temporary imposition of the mandated price ceilings on rice because of the sudden spike in the prices of the staple grain.
“Nag-aani na tayo. Pagpasok niyan, sa palagay ko makikita na natin na bababa ‘yung presyo [It would be determined by], market forces. Baka kung ‘yung merkado mismo ang magbababa ng presyo, eh puwede na nating bawasan (We’re already harvesting. When that comes in, I think we will see the prices go down. [It would be determined by] market forces. Maybe if the market itself lowers the price, we could reduce it),” he said in an interview after the distribution of rice to about 2,000 qualified beneficiaries in Iriga City, Camarines Sur.
In August, the Department of Agriculture (DA) reported that the palay harvest output was estimated at 900,000 metric tons (MT).
The palay harvest, which will peak in late September to October, will contribute largely to the country’s production in July to December, which is estimated at 11.5 million metric tons (MMT), according to the DA report.
Based on data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, the national palay output from January to June 2023 rose to 9.02 MMT, 3.4 percent more than the 8.7 MMT production for the same period in 2022 and 2021.
Nothing to worry about
In a speech delivered during the rice distribution, Marcos said the present challenge the government is facing is the hoarding of supply to manipulate the price of the staple grain.
While hoarders are delaying the release of rice, Marcos said the public need not worry about the supply, emphasizing that the country has sufficient stock of the staple.
“Nandito po kami upang magbigay naman ng tulong sa mga nangangailangan dahil alam po nating nagtaas ang presyo ng bigas (We are here to help those in need because we know that the price of rice has increased),” Marcos said.
“Sobrang taas ng presyo kaya’t napilitan tayong maglagay ng price cap. Pero ang dami pa ring kulang sa pag-distribute. Marami naman tayong bigas, hindi lang nailalabas ng tama. Kaya hindi problema ang supply sa atin dito sa Pilipinas (The price was so high that we were forced to put a price cap. But the distribution of rice is not enough. We have a lot of rice, it’s just not being released properly. Supply is not a problem for us here in the Philippines).”
Under Executive Order (EO) 39, which took effect on Sept. 5, Marcos ordered the implementation of a price ceiling of PHP41 per kg. for regular milled rice and PHP45 per kg. for well-milled rice.
Marcos said the DA is exhausting all efforts to boost the supply and reduce the cost of rice in the country.
“Alam niyo po, tayo naman sa pamahalaan, ginagawa natin ang lahat na matiyak na unang-una, sapat ang pagkain, pangalawa na ito ay nasa presyo na abot-kaya ng mga kababayan natin (We in the government do everything to ensure that first, there is enough food, and secondly that the price is affordable for our countrymen),” he said.
Department of Social Welfare and Development Assistant Secretary and spokesperson Romel Lopez reported that they have so far given financial aid of PHP15,000 each to 6,161 rice retailers or 73 percent of the target beneficiaries of 10,489.
“The amount of the budget disbursed for the livelihood grant is PHP92.415 million,” he said during the Saturday News Forum in Quezon City.
The beneficiaries are micro rice retailers affected by EO 39. There are also plans to give sari-sari (retail) store owners selling rice about PHP5,000 each. (With a report from Ferdinand Patinio/PNA)