By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has called for a Senate investigation into the alarming increases in the prices of basic commodities, which greatly affects the country’s poorest households.
De Lima filed Senate Resolution (SR) No. 611 seeking to implement urgent measures that will control and manage the cost of these basic commodities that pose a threat to people’s right to food and affect the fragile condition of many Filipino households.
“It is imperative for the Senate, along with other key agencies, to discuss and assess the primary causes of this unabated increases in prices in basic commodities including pork, vegetables, and fish,” she said.
“The State and its agencies must identify the policy levers that can rein in excessive volatility and maintain prices within a reasonable band,” she added.
According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), the COVID-19 crisis resulted in lower incomes and higher prices of some foods, putting food out of reach for many.
De Lima said the prices of agricultural commodities in the market continued to climb as Filipinos welcomed the new year, citing the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) price watch showing increases in vegetable and meat prices by as much as 66 percent from December 2020.
As the national government shifts the public’s focus and attention on the implementation of its COVID-19 vaccination program, De Lima said gut issues such as these should not be relegated to the background.
“However, it is crucial that these price surges are duly addressed as price volatility on these basic commodities adversely impact the very fragile condition and situation of many Filipino households given the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said.
“The dramatic slowdown in the economy, coupled with severe restrictions on movement, has resulted in mass job losses over the last few months. With no income or social support, millions of people cannot afford enough to eat,” she added.
De Lima likewise said that increase in the prices of these basic commodities is an extra burden for those whose income had fallen because of the economic shocks brought about by the pandemic such as loss of employment and underemployment.
She stressed that it is also the duty of the Senate to review and enact policies and measures that can temper down and manage the surging prices of these commodities after its careful evaluation and assessment of the situation and factors affecting this persisting problem.
“While the State must take action to control the spread of the coronavirus, urgent action is also required to stop the growing hunger crisis and build more resilient and sustainable food systems that work for all Filipinos,” she said.
“It must also scale-up investments in food production, ensure producers earn a living income by establishing minimum producer prices and other support mechanisms, and ensure workers earn a living wage,” she added.
In an earlier Twitter post, the lady Senator from Bicol slammed the lawmakers who, amid the pandemic and rising prices of basic commodities are pushing for Charter Change.
“Habang busy-busyhan ang mga Congressman magdebate para ibenta ang bansa natin, nagtataasan ang bilihin sa palengke. Pansinin niyo naman yung kababayan natin na wala nang maiulam!,” De Lima said.
Ultimately, De Lima underscored the need to show our countrymen that their government deals with their problems on food security with the same zeal as the matter of vaccination, quarantine, and travel restrictions with regard to COVID-19. (AI/MTVN)