To guard against unscrupulous traders, the House of Representatives would closely monitor the prices of basic commodities this Christmas season, Speaker Martin Romualdez said yesterday.

According to Romualdez, the chamber will make sure the costs of basic commodities, such as food, would remain within the bounds of their suggested retail price (SRP) this holiday.

'We want to make sure that traders do not take advantage of the holiday season to jack up prices of basic commodities. The Christmas season is meant to be a time of giving and compassion, and we want to make sure that prices of goods are affordable to a great majority of our people,' he noted.

Romualdez said the House wants to ensure the prices of Noche Buena items will not be unnecessarily jacked up.

'Vegetables, such as onions, garlic, tomatoes and cabbage, should be within the reach of the Filipino. We appeal to retailers to follow the SRP,' he added.

Romualdez and House deputy majority leader for communications and ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Erwin Tulfo made a surprise visit to Farmers Market in Cubao to check on the supply and prices of food items.

Finding that the price of rice is slowly increasing in the market, the two committed to check the situation with 'sources,' such as traders and importers.

'Although there are rice here that are priced at P55 and P50 a kilo, there are others that are really expensive,' Romualdez said.

Tulfo also promised that the House would do price checks in markets on a regular basis. 'We will continue the all-out war against profiteers preying on hapless consumers,' he said.

Meanwhile, groups have confirmed that wholesale prices of locally produced rice have slowly risen as the palay harvest season nears it end.

Bulacan rice trader Malou Tolentino said in a text message to The STAR that clean and dry palay are now priced at an average of P32 to P33 per kilo, which translates to a wholesale commercial rice price of P2,500 per 50-kilo sack.

Rosendo So, Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura president, said their monitoring showed the average farmgate prices for fresh palay in Pangasinan, Nueva Ecija and Isabela provinces are at P26 per kilo, while that of dried palay with 14 percent moisture content is P28 to P28.50 per kilo.

He added that P2 per kilo is added to those amounts when palay is picked up from the farm and delivered to rice millers.

Roderico Sulit, vice president of the Intercity Ricemill Owners Association in Bulacan, noted that a 25-kilogram sack of good quality rice now sells at P1,200 to P1,270.

Wholesale rice traders said that, at the peak of the harvest season in October, the prices of palay averaged between P25 and P26 per kilo, which should translate to the prices of rice ranging from P42 to P44 per kilo.

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