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RICE SMUGGLERS, HOARDERS BEWARE

July 25, 2023 Jester P. Manalastas 285 views

SPEAKER Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez said the House of Representatives will do all it can to help President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Romualdez Marcos Jr. wage the war against the smuggling and hoarding of rice and other agricultural products.

“We share the President’s anger and frustration with smuggling, hoarding and price manipulation. We will redouble our efforts to stop the smuggling and hoarding of rice, sugar, onions, garlic, and vegetables, which harms our farmers’ competitiveness and disrupts the agricultural value chain,” Romualdez said.

“Kami sa Kongreso ay tutulong sa Pangulo para mapigilan ang pagtaas ng presyo ng mga pangunahing bilihin. Lahat ng kaya naming gawin ay ibubuhos namin sa misyong ito,” he added.

The House leader said the national government must safeguard the interests of the farmers and people in general, ensure equitable market conditions, and foster sustainable farming methods to guarantee our nation’s food security.

He reiterated the President’s warning that the days of smugglers, hoarders and price manipulators are now numbered.

Likewise, he noted that under President Marcos, the agriculture sector has started to grow.

He vowed that the House would continue to monitor consumer prices.

“We will continually check on prices, especially of staples like rice, vegetables, meat, onions, and garlic, to protect our people from hoarding, price manipulation, unreasonable price increases, and other practices in restraint of trade that hamper competition,” Romualdez said.

“That is part of our oversight function. We have the appropriate tools to carry this out, including conducting follow-up hearings and summoning suspected hoarders, smugglers and cartel leaders if needed. We will not shirk from our duty to help our people,” he added.

The Speaker called on the concerned departments and other state offices and banks to assist farmers in obtaining technology, funding, equipment, and inputs to improve their harvest and boost the supply of agricultural products.

Early this year, the House Committee on Agriculture conducted an inquiry into the high prices of onions, which had jumped to as much as P600 a kilo.

The committee uncovered evidence pointing to the existence of a cartel behind the surge in prices in 2022 and this year.

The cartel is supposedly composed of a few trading companies controlled by a certain Lea Cruz, who has earned the label “Sibuyas Queen.” The group reportedly resorts to hoarding, price-fixing and coordinated release of opinions in the market to manipulate prices.

Summoned by the investigating committee, Cruz, who had been dragged in previous congressional inquiries, denied any wrongdoing. She claimed her participation was limited to helping farmers transport their produce.

The President vented his anger on smugglers and hoarders in his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday.