By Stephanie Sevillano

PRICE FREEZE. Agriculture Assistant Secretary Arnel de Mesa says a nationwide price freeze may cause problems in areas not severely affected by the El Niño phenomenon. In an interview on Friday (May 3, 2024), De Mesa said a price freeze of basic commodities is automatically effective in areas under a state of calamity. (Screengrab)

MANILA – The Department of Agriculture (DA) on Friday said that a price freeze of rice and other basic commodities should only be implemented in areas severely affected by the El Niño phenomenon. 

“Kung idadamay iyong buong bansa na hindi naman apektado ng El Niño, baka magkaroon ng problema doon sa ibang area (If we will include the entire country which is not affected by the El Nino, we might have a problem in other areas),” DA Assistant Secretary Arnel de Mesa said during the Bagong Pilipinas Ngayon briefing.

He said the price freeze is already effective in areas under a state of calamity. 

“Makikita natin mostly western section ng ating bansa ang naapektuhan at kanya-kanya iyong mga apektadong lugar na ito ay nagkaroon na ng declaration ng (We can see that those on the western section of our country have been mostly affected and each of the areas has already declared) states of emergencies,” he said. 

To date, 131 local government units (LGUs) have declared a state of calamity nationwide, according to Task Force El Niño. 

The Mimaropa region remains the most affected with PHP1.71 billion worth of agricultural damage, followed by Western Visayas at PHP1.5 billion; Cordillera Administrative Region, PHP768 million; and Cagayan Valley, PHP562 million. 

The DA earlier reported around PHP5.90 billion worth of agricultural damage due to El Nino, with rice production being the hardest hit, recording around PHP3.14 billion worth of loss. (PNA)