By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Senator Risa Hontiveros has secured the commitment of the Department of Agriculture (DA) that it will consider recommending the revocation of a controversial price ceiling on pork and chicken products, as the agency agreed to explore better means to address rising food costs in the country.
During the recent Senate probe on the sharp rise in food prices across the country, DA Secretary William Dar and other agriculture officials confirmed to Hontiveros that they will study recommending Malacañang to withdraw Executive Order (EC) 124, which imposed a 60-day price ceiling on pork and chicken products.
“We welcome the DA’s decision to closely review these price caps to see if they are helping consumers and vendors as intended. Umaasa akong babalansehin nila ang interes ng nakararami. Anuman ang maging rekomendasyon nila, dapat ito ay mabilis at epektibo upang hindi na bumigat ang pinagdadaanan ng lahat,” she said.
Hontiveros noted that the price caps have been criticized by market vendors, farmers, economists and lawmakers for being unfeasible, as higher transportation costs for pork and chicken supplies make the mandated prices too low to be tenable. Instead of helping consumers, she said, the move has forced some vendors and traders to close their stalls to consumers altogether.
“Nagdeklara na po ang maraming vendor sa Metro Manila ng ‘pork holiday’ dahil hindi na nila kaya ang pagkalugi. Ikatlong linggo pa lang ng implementation ng price cap, marami na ang nagsasarang tindahan at ang kababayan natin na nawawalan ng kita. Clearly, imposing these price ceilings has only worsened our food crisis,” she said.
The senator said that the DA should look into more feasible and effective approaches to bringing down food prices and increasing food supplies in the country, such as expanding the number of hog raisers and suppliers covered by the insurance program of the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation (PCIC).
Hontiveros also urged the DA and other related agencies to act with more haste in formulating and implementing programs to deal with the rising costs of food products: “Baka naman tapos na ang 60 day period ng price ceiling order, wala pa ang rekomendasyon at aksyon ng DA. Mas lalong hindi pwedeng next year pa darating ang ayuda, dahil mauubos ng tuluyan ang ating chicken at pork industries.”
“Pagdating sa isyu ng pagkain, hindi pwedeng mabagal ang kilos ng pamahalaan. Kung hindi tayo magsisikap, lalong umuunti ang supply ng karne sa merkado at dumarami naman ang mga vendor, trader at hog-raiser na walang maiuwing kita sa kanilang pamilya. Wala nang pagkain, wala pang kabuhayan – hindi pwede yan,” she concluded. (AI/MTVN)