In a strategic move aimed at curbing the concerning surge in rice prices and ensuring accessible food staples for all citizens, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has issued Executive Order (EO) No. 39. The executive order, signed by Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin on August 31, has set forth a nationwide price ceiling for rice, following a thorough briefing on the state of the nation’s rice supply.

The Mandated Price Ceilings Unveiled

With immediate effect, the EO establishes a price ceiling of P41 per kilogram for regular milled rice, while well-milled rice is capped at P45 per kilogram. These mandated limits are in response to the escalating prices of rice at the retail level, which have been causing significant economic strain on various segments of the population, particularly those who are marginalized and underprivileged.

President Marcos emphasized that it is crucial for the government to intervene and ensure the availability of affordable basic necessities for all Filipinos. The imposition of price ceilings on rice is a vital step towards alleviating the financial pressure experienced by many due to the rising costs of essential commodities.

Government Agencies Mobilized for Implementation

The Executive Order places the responsibility of overseeing the strict implementation of the price ceilings on the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). These agencies are tasked with monitoring and investigating any unusual price fluctuations in the rice market. To further aid retailers affected by the new regulations, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) will lend assistance as required.

Furthermore, President Marcos has directed the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to take aggressive measures against hoarding and the illicit importation of rice. The BOC is now mandated to intensify inspections and conduct raids on rice warehouses, ensuring that hoarded supplies are confiscated and seized.

Combatting Market Abuse and Ensuring Fair Competition

To prevent any abuse of market dominance and ensure fair competition, the Philippine Competition Commission has been enlisted by the President to take necessary measures against cartels and entities exploiting their influential market positions. This step aims to protect consumer interests and uphold a balanced competitive environment.

Law enforcement agencies, including the Philippine National Police (PNP), have been called upon to collaborate with the DTI and the DA to enforce the price ceilings effectively. Their involvement is pivotal in swiftly addressing any violations and maintaining compliance.

Rice Supply and International Factors

During a recent sectoral meeting, the Department of Agriculture disclosed projections indicating that rice supply for the second semester is anticipated to reach 10.15 million metric tons (MMT). This projection encompasses 2.53 MMT of ending stock from the first semester, 7.20 MMT from local production, and 0.41 MMT of imported rice. The current supply is deemed sufficient to meet the demand of 7.76 MMT, leaving an ending stock of 2.39 MMT that can cover consumption for up to 64 days.

While the projected supply appears stable, the EO acknowledges the persisting challenges of alleged price manipulation, opportunistic hoarding, and collusion among industry players. The EO also highlights the influence of global dynamics beyond national control, such as the Russia-Ukraine conflict, India’s embargo on rice exports, and the unpredictable trends in oil prices, which contribute to the prevailing uncertainties.

Rising Rice Inflation and the Way Forward

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) reported an increase in rice inflation rates from 1.0% in January 2022 to 4.2% in July 2023. This escalation is attributed to heightened demand and tight supply conditions, fueled in part by concerns surrounding the impending El Niño phenomenon.

President Marcos affirms that these factors, combined with others, have contributed to the distressing surge in rice retail prices. The imposition of price ceilings is a strategic intervention designed to mitigate the economic challenges faced by the populace, fostering equitable access to a staple food source and bolstering overall financial stability.

Photo from Presidential Communications Office (FB Page)

In conclusion, President Marcos’ implementation of nationwide price ceilings on rice signifies a proactive approach to safeguarding consumer interests and promoting fair competition within the market. By collaborating with various government agencies and addressing both domestic and international factors, this move aims to alleviate the economic burden on citizens and ensure that essential commodities remain accessible to all Filipinos.