By Junex Doronio

LEFT WITHOUT A CHOICE BUT TO FOLLOW the directive of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. on enforcing a rice price ceiling, Finance Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno on Monday clarified that the economic team was “a bit surprised” by the recent executive order that took effect last Tuesday, 05 September 2023.

In a statement, the DOF said the Philippines’ economic team reiterates its full support and endorsement of the President’s recent decision to impose a price ceiling on rice while emphasizing the importance of immediately implementing a comprehensive set of measures aimed at securing long-term stability within the rice market.

“We agree with the President that implementing a price cap on rice is the most prudent course of action at the moment to achieve two critical objectives: (1) stabilizing rice prices and (2) extending immediate support to our fellow countrymen,” Diokno said.

EO 39 was released last August 31 and subsequently took effect on Sept. 5, 2023). It imposes mandated price ceilings on rice at P41 per kilogram on regular milled rice, and P45 per kilo for well-milled rice.

But Diokno appeared reluctant.

He admitted that the President’s decision to implement a rice price ceiling came as a surprise to the economic team, as they were in Japan when the executive order was announced.

In his opening statement during the press conference last Friday, September 8, Diokno said that price controls, when carefully calibrated and closely implemented, are effective in the near term.

“However, the government recognizes that it also has adverse effects if allowed to linger for a longer period,” Diokno said.

“What are the possible consequences if you allow it to last longer? Number one, the farmers won’t plant. Secondly, the importers won’t import, and of course, there’s a strong likelihood that supply will disappear, because if you’re losing money you just close your shop,” the DOF chief explained.