The government is ready to lift the price ceilings it imposed on rice due to decreasing prices in the global and domestic markets and the expected increase in the supply of the food commodity, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said yesterday.

Speaking to reporters at Malacañang, DA - Bureau of Plant Industry Director Gerald Glenn Panganiban said it would be up to President Marcos to decide whether to lift the price caps, which took effect last Sept. 5.

'The recommendation, of course, was, because of these indicators, I think it is positive, it can be done,' Panganiban said. 'From our parameters, it seems that we are ready (to lift the price ceilings). But of course, it's all upon the President to decide on it.'

Panganiban said agencies had presented the status of their compliance with Executive Order (EO) 39 during a sectoral meeting yesterday in Malacañang.

The EO set the price cap on regular milled rice at P41 per kilogram and that of the well-milled rice at P45 per kilogram.

'And then we are expecting an increased supply of our local harvest coming this last quarter - for October, November and then the rest of the year. And the favorable factors externally (have) been reported, a drop in the export prices of rice in the global market has also been reported,' he added.

According to Panganiban, the government is expecting almost 1.9 million metric tons of rice this month, which will be enough for 74 days. In September, the supply of rice was only good for 52 days.

Asked when the price ceiling on rice would be lifted, the agriculture official replied: 'I cannot say the duration but the indications point to that, so we will just keep you updated as soon as there will be a decision.'

Panganiban said the lifting of the rice price caps was a joint recommendation of the agriculture and trade departments.

In a Facebook post, Radio Television Malacañang said the National Economic and Development Authority supports the proposed lifting of the price cap, but is recommending several interventions to complement the move.

These include providing logistics support to rice traders, financial assistance to Filipino farmers and unconditional rice price subsidies to poor consumers.

In a statement, the Presidential Communications Office said rice prices have also gone down close to the price ceiling, with the average price of regular milled rice at about P41.91 per kilo and for well-milled rice at P45.95.

Panganiban reported that 80 to 90 percent of rice retailers complied with the price ceiling.

With regard to the remaining ten to 20 percent of the retailers, he explained that most of them are focused on special rice, which is not covered by the EO, while others opted not to sell the food commodity.

He also gave assurance that the agencies are working together to prevent the drastic increase in the prices of rice.

Quick response

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is asking the Senate for a P300-million fund to create a quick response task force that would go after hoarders and profiteers, especially in the regions, DTI secretary Alfredo Pascual told the Senate yesterday during the public hearing on the DTI's proposed budget for 2024.

Pascual articulated their requests after Sen. Loren Legarda pointed out the zero budget on their program on consumer protection.

'We want to reorganize our consumer protection activities by centralizing. You cannot expect a junior person to run after hoarders and profiteers in areas where people of influence are operating in the regions…Our plan is to centralize consumer protection activity in the head office and have like a quick response task force,' Pascual said.

'We will submit a program that will require funding of P300 million to strengthen our consumer protection activities,' he said.

DTI Assistant Secretary Mary Jean Pacheco further explained to the committee that the P300 million will fund an inter-DTI strike team to go around the country to augment or increase enforcement activities nationwide.

She added that the P300 million would also be used for the enforcement of the Republic Act 11900 or the Vaporized Nicotine and Non-Nicotine Products Regulation Act that regulates the importation, manufacture, sale, packaging, distribution, use and communication of vaping products such as e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products.

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