By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos

PRICE CAPS LIFTED. The price per kilogram of regular milled and well-milled rice are capped at PHP 41 and PHP 45, respectively, after the implementation of Executive Order 39 on Sept. 5, 2023. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Wednesday (Oct. 4, 2023) announced the lifting of the mandatory price caps on rice upon the recommendation of the departments of agriculture and trade. (PNA file photo)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has lifted the implementation of Executive Order 39, which imposes a mandated price ceiling on regular milled and well-milled rice.

Marcos announced his decision on the sidelines of the distribution of rice to beneficiaries of the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) in Taguig City on Wednesday.

“I think it’s the appropriate time since namimigay tayo ng bigas (we are distributing rice). As of today, we are lifting the price caps on the rice, for the regular milled rice and for the well-milled rice. So, tinatanggal na natin ‘yung mga kontrol (we are removing the controls),” he said in a media interview.

Marcos’ announcement came a day after the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) recommended the lifting of the mandatory rice price ceilings in a sectoral meeting at Malacañan Palace in Manila.

EO 39, which took effect on Sept. 5, imposes a price cap of PHP41 per kg. on regular milled rice and PHP45 per kg. on well-milled rice.

Despite the lifting of EO 39, Marcos said the government still needs to address the issue of the higher price of rice in Metro Manila.

Noong tinitignan naming kahapon ‘yung statistics, ang problema talaga ay dito sa NCR, dito mataas and presyo ng bigas (When we were looking at the statistics yesterday, the real problem is here in the National Capital Region, where the price of rice is high),” Marcos said.

“But that’s natural dahil nasa city tayo. Matagal bago dumating ang bigas dito at nagiging mahal and transportation, storage, processing fee. Dahil doon kaya naman tumataas and presyo dito sa NCR (But that’s natural because we’re in the city. It takes a long time for the rice to arrive here and the transportation, storage, and processing fees become expensive. The price is rising here in the NCR because of that).”

The President said he had already instructed House of Representatives Speaker Martin Romualdez to launch a program that would task the 33 congressmen from the country’s metropolis to distribute rice to affected individuals.

He added that the government would continue to watch “very closely” those who remain to be affected by the spike in the prices of rice, including local farmers.

“We are lifting the price cap but beside that, we are taking other measures,” Marcos said. “We will continue the assistance that we have been giving to farmers, also the assistance that we have been giving to those most underprivileged families, ‘yung sa pinakamababang (those in the lowest) demographic economic class, dahil talagang sila ang naghihirap (because they are the ones who suffer the most).”

In a Palace briefing on Tuesday, DA – Bureau of Plant Industry Director Gerald Glenn Panganiban said there were several indicators for the lifting of the price cap, including the decreasing rice prices in local markets and an increased supply of local harvest in the last quarter of 2023.

Panganiban also noted “favorable” external factors that have been reported in the export prices of rice in the global market.

Meanwhile, over 19,000 sari-sari store owners and micro rice retailers across the country have received cash assistance from the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s Sustainable Livelihood Program (DSWD-SLP).

Some 5,400 remaining beneficiaries are awaiting their turn to receive the cash aid totalling to PHP81 million, DSWD spokesperson Romel Lopez said.

“We are now 78 percent finished with the distribution of cash aid to the DTI-validated target beneficiaries,” Lopez said, adding that they are expediting the disbursement to complete the cash distribution.

He said DSWD has distributed a total of PHP286.26 million in SLP assistance to 19,084 beneficiaries.

The ongoing cash aid distribution is part of the directive of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. to help small rice traders and retailers who were directly affected by the price caps on regular-milled and well-milled rice as mandated under EO 39 series of 2023.  

Farmers’ benefit

The lifting of the rice price ceiling will benefit local farmers as this will increase the buying price of palay, said Frederic Dy, director of the Grains Retailers’ Confederation of the Philippines, Inc. – Eastern Visayas.

Malacañang’s decision to lift the price cap was also timely with the high demand for palay harvested in Leyte province, he said.

“Farmers can sell their produce at higher prices since there are no more price limits. We have noticed that even if it’s harvest time, traders have low stock levels in their warehouses due to high demand. Traders from other regions also buy palay from our province,” Dy said.

The prevailing buying price of palay in the region is PHP22 per kg. (With eports from Zaldy de Layola, Sarwell Maniano, PNA)