The House of Representatives will conduct an inquiry into the spiraling cost of basic commodities amid low farmgate prices when session resumes on April 29.

Speaker Martin Romualdez said he would lead an 'investigation in aid of legislation' into the widening gap between farmgate and retail prices of rice and other basic goods.

Romualdez made the statement after meeting with producers, suppliers, retailers and grocery store owners recently.

'I would ask chairman Mark Enverga of the House committee on agriculture to immediately start the investigation into the discrepancy between farmgate and retail prices of basic commodities,' Romualdez said.

Enverga represents the first district of Quezon province.

'The discrepancy between farmgate and retail prices of basic goods is alarming and warrants immediate attention. We cannot ignore the plight of our farmers who are struggling to make ends meet, nor can we turn a blind eye on the burden placed on consumers,' he added.

During the meeting, Jayson Cainglet of the Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura informed Romualdez that farmgate prices of rice, poultry, pork and onions have remained the same in the past three months, and therefore retail prices should not have gone up.

Romualdez assured producers and retailers that the House would look into the discrepancy. He committed to thoroughly review existing laws 'to protect the interest of both consumers and producers, and prevent profiteering.'

He urged stakeholders, including government agencies, industry representatives and consumer advocacy groups to participate in the investigation and contribute to the formulation of effective policy interventions.

Romualdez said the review should identify and address loopholes that contribute to profiteering and unfair pricing practices within the supply chain.

As the process of instituting reforms to ensure stable supply and affordable prices, Romualdez said the House remains committed to supporting safety nets, even expanding them, to protect vulnerable sectors from the effects of rising food prices.

GMO crops

Meanwhile, environmental group Greenpeace lauded a ruling of the Court of Appeals (CA) prohibiting commercial propagation and activities relating to genetically modified crops, including the Bt eggplant and the Golden Rice.

Greenpeace Southeast Asia campaigner Wilhelmina Pelegrina said the CA ruling was a people's victory.

'This decision is a monumental win for Filipino farmers and people who have, for decades, stood up against genetically modified crops. Greenpeace commends this decision and is honored to be part of the movement that supported the work of Filipino farmers, who will ultimately benefit from the court ruling,' Pelegrina said.

In a 143-page decision promulgated on April 17, the CA's Fourth Division stopped the field-testing and use as well as importation of genetically modified organisms (GMO) until strengthened risk assessment and monitoring procedures are put in place.

'The Appellate Court essentially put a moratorium on these genetically modified crops. The CA has upheld the constitutional rights of the Filipinos and the government's duty to serve the interests of the people than of agrochemical companies,' Pelegrina said.

She said Greenpeace has constantly noted that genetically modified crops have been approved in the Philippines despite the lack of adequate data on safety assessments from its proponents.

These crops were never proven to be safe and hindered the progress of a climate-resilient ecological agriculture, which keeps the control of seeds on our farmers, she said.

Pelegrina said the Department of Agriculture should promote sustainable agricultural solutions that would prioritize nutrition, provide ample resources for farmers and ensure resiliency as the country is reeling from the worsening impacts of a climate crisis.

In stopping the commercial propagation of Golden Rice and Bt eggplant, the CA cited potential risks to the environment and public health.

The appellate court granted a writ of kalikasan to the Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad Agrikultura, Greenpeace Southeast Asia-Philippines and other concerned groups.

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