Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Monday sought to appease the country's rice retailers hit by his move to cap soaring prices of the national staple, pledging government assistance to those adversely affected by the temporary measure.
Marcos has approved price ceilings for rice to protect consumers in one of the world's biggest importers of the grain, against what the government described as widespread price manipulation by traders in cahoots with industry cartels.
Philippine inflation is widely expected to have accelerated in August after easing for six straight months partly due to spikes in prices of rice, which accounts for nearly 10% of the monthly consumer basket.
The Philippine central bank had projected the August headline figure to be within a 4.8% to 5.6% range, from a 16-month low of 4.7% in July. The data will be released on Tuesday.
Before flying to Indonesia to attend an ASEAN summit, and following a meeting with agencies to discuss mitigating measures for rice retailers, Marcos again vowed a crackdown on smugglers and hoarders.
"The market is being tampered with. That is why the government needs to intervene and impose price ceilings for rice," he said.
The measure, imposed indefinitely, drew criticisms from some farmers and consumer advocacy groups, urging Marcos to go after the big private traders behind price manipulation, as retailers had already bought supplies at high prices.
The crackdown comes at a time of pressure on rice prices from India's export ban and other global events.
Marcos said the country's rice supply remained adequate and will be further boosted with local harvests from the peak September-October season and fresh imports, which should determine market-based prices.
(Reporting by Enrico Dela Cruz; Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor)