THE House of Representatives will study the amendments to the Rice Tariffication Law (Republic Act No. 11203), which created the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF), so that the government can use collected unappropriated funds and tariffs as cash assistance for farmers and import subsidies, according to Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez.
“We will study all means possible of oversight; we will use RCEP to help our farmers. Maybe we can use part of the fund, so we can subsidize the importation to bring down the price, either directly or indirectly,” he said on Thursday.
Under the Rice Tariffication Law, the RCEF allocates P10 billion to four component programs: mechanization (P5 billion), seeds (P3 billion), extension (P1 billion), and credit (P1 billion).
Amid allegations that hoarders are driving up the cost of rice in the market, Romualdez on Thursday led a team from the House of Representatives on a fact-finding mission and inspected large rice warehouses in Bulacan, where they concluded that rice hoarding has been happening.
“We will explore all the means that we can use here; that’s why we are here. We are talking to everyone so that we can work together here and bring it out. We have the supply, right?” added Romualdez.
According to Romualdez, the chamber will also study the amendments to the Price Act to strengthen consumer protection by stabilizing the prices of basic necessities and prime commodities.
“We will also study the [Price Act]. That is one of our ways to lower the price [of rice],” he said.
Upon invitation from Bureau of Customs Commissioner Bienvenido Rubio and, as part of the exercise of the oversight powers of Congress, Romualdez joined in inspecting the FS Rice Mill, San Pedro Warehouse, and Great Harvest Rice Meal Warehouse located in the boundaries of Bocaue and Balagtas towns in Bulacan.
The Speaker said that some rice traders have been exploiting the international price adjustments to jack up rice prices in the local market.
“We need to know if there is truly some basis to accusations that hoarders are responsible for the spike in rice prices in the market. Inspections such as these send a powerful signal to all the hoarders and manipulators out there to stop burdening the Filipino people for profit,” Romualdez said.
“Aside from our oversight functions under the law, we are also doing this in aid of legislation, as we have pending measures in the House of Representatives that seek to penalize the act of hoarding rice and other basic agricultural necessities,” Romualdez said.
Accompanying the Speaker were Reps. Erwin Tulfo, Edvic Yap, and Wilfrido Mark Enverga, the chair of the House Committee on Agriculture and Food. They were joined by officials and employees of the BOC.
“Rice hoarding is economic sabotage in its highest degree. It not only destabilizes prices in the market through arbitrary manipulation, but it also adversely affects the ability of Filipino families to cope with day-to-day living. And for that, hoarders should apply the full force of the law,” Enverga said.
“And this is in support of President Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Romualdez Marcos Jr.’s efforts in alleviating the plight of Filipino families now reeling from the high cost of rice. We want our citizens to know that their government is doing something to bring down the price of rice,” Tulfo, for his part, said.
For the past few weeks, the price of rice has been steadily rising, with retailers selling it at P50 to P62 per kilogram in Metro Manila.
During the fact-finding mission, the BOC, armed with letters of authority, barred the owners of the Great Harvest Rice Mill Warehouse, the San Pedro Warehouse, and the FS Rice Mill from retrieving the goods pending submission of the required documents on their rice importation.
The Speaker is set to inspect more rice warehouses.
Image credits: Nonie Reyes