Gov’t primarily to blame for rice prices, agri woes
The editorial “Break the rice cartel” (9/16/19) should have been blunt in blaming the current plight of our farmers on this administration and its President, who has not only miserably failed to fulfill his campaign promise to end in three days the stranglehold of rice cartels over the supply of rice, but has exacerbated the sufferings of our farmers with the rice tariffication law.
That law paved the way for imported rice to flood our markets, thus directly causing the farmgate price of palay to fall and consequently condemning our farmers to bankruptcy and penury. There was really no need for the law in the first place.
The President himself declared during his last State of the Nation Address that he knew the identity of these rice hoarders, cartels and their protectors causing an artificial shortage of rice. He even directed the government’s intelligence agencies to unmask these perpetrators of economic sabotage, and for the law enforcement agencies to bring them to justice.
The government had the power to dismantle these cartels, since under the Price Act of the Philippines, it could have initiated summary proceedings to seize rice being hoarded by them, order their sale to the public at an affordable price and impose price ceilings in fulfillment of its obligation to ensure their availability at reasonable prices at all times.
It was a power which the National Food Authority itself could have exercised in order to break the rice cartels, but which the rice tariffication law has just deprived it of, for deceitfully hidden in said law is the repeal of subparagraph vi and vii of Section 6(a) of Presidential Decree No. 4 as amended, which grants to it the power to enter the premises and inspect, among others, rice being hoarded, order their seizure and cause their public sale as needed to stabilize rice prices.
For all its pretensions, said law is really procartel.
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