The Department of Agriculture (DA) announced on Wednesday that they are in the process of drafting the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) for a law clause, seeking to stabilize necessities and commodities supply while protecting consumers from unjustified price hikes during food shortages.

In a statement, the DA said that Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel issued Special Order 18, assigning the technical working group (TWG) to develop an IRR for Section 9 of Republic Act No. 7581, also known as the Price Act.

'Secretary Tiu Laurel ordered the TWG to develop a clear and concise set of rules to implement Section 9 of the Price Act,' the DA said in a statement.

The DA also said that it will work with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and other government agencies in crafting the IRR.

The move was made to prepare for a potential food shortage linked to the looming El Niño threat, flagged by the National Economic and Development Authority in December as a factor influencing consumer prices.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas also previously said that the anticipated dry spell may impact the country's food supply.

An IRR is generally a set of rules defined by an appointed government agency that serve as guidelines for the implementation of a law.

The Price Act, ratified in May 1992, is a law that protects consumers from unfair price increases during food shortages or 'emergencies.'

Section 9 of the law, meanwhile, gives an 'implementing agency,' which in this case is the agriculture department, the power to procure, purchase, import, or stockpile basic or prime commodities.

'The Department of Agriculture was identified as the lead agency tasked to stabilize prices of agricultural crops, fish and other marine products, fresh meat, fresh poultry, dairy products, fertilizers and other farm inputs during emergencies,' the DA said in a statement.

Other possible implementing agencies mentioned in the Price Act are the following:

The Department of Health, with reference to drugs

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources, with reference to wood and other forest products

The DTI, with reference to all other basic necessities and prime commodities

In December, Science and Technology Secretary Renato Solidum said that 65 provinces in the country are likely to be hit by severe drought due to El Niño by the first half of 2024.

Solidum compared the current El Niño to the 1997-1998 dry spell, which was the most severe the country had ever faced, resulting in billions of pesos in agricultural damage.

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