SPEAKER Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez on Friday warned unscrupulous rice traders that the House will be unrelenting in its fight against rice hoarders and smugglers and would do everything to help President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. drive rice prices down to reasonable levels.
This developed after Romualdez, along with other lawmakers, met with representatives of the non-government organization (NGO) Philippine Rice Industry Stakeholders’ Movement (PRISM) at the Manila Golf and Country Club.
Earlier, the entire House of Representatives, led by Romualdez, issued a statement supporting President Marcos’ Executive Order No. 39 that imposed a price ceiling on rice.
“If you want to be part of the solution, you are with us, we will help you, we’re going to support you. But if you’re part of the problem, we will root you out,” Speaker Romualdez told PRISM representatives during the meeting.
He said the House is serious in its support of the President’s immediate goal of stabilizing rice prices and the Chief Executive’s long-term vision of achieving rice self-sufficiency for the country.
“If we find out that people are importing and hoarding and profiteering, we’re going to raid. And Customs will just seize it and give it to DSWD, to Kadiwa, to the DA for sale at a much lower price point,” he added.
With the Speaker during the meeting are House Senior Deputy Majority Leader Sandro Marcos, Appropriations Committee Chairman Elizaldy Co, Deputy Majority Leader Erwin Tulfo, Committee on Agriculture and Food Chair Mark Enverga and his vice-chairperson Rep. David “Jay-jay” Suarez.
The Speaker acknowledged the gesture of PRISM to make available to the public rice at P38 a kilo but he also noted that the target of recent raids in Bulacan rice warehouses suspected of hoarding and smuggling were members of the group.
He said the group could show their sincerity by helping the government unmask the “bad eggs” or members suspected of involvement in unscrupulous trade practices.
Noting that rice imports, particularly from Vietnam, constitute only 18 percent of the total rice consumption in the country, Romualdez said traders cannot justify price hikes in the local market by citing world market prices.
While it’s completely understandable for traders to earn profits from the rice trade, Romualdez said they should not be too greedy, warning that the government is willing to undertake even more drastic measures to regulate importation to prevent abuses by profiteers.
“Don’t try to scare the government. The government can take over and do the importing itself and just break even or even subsidize. At the end of the day the people—the over 100 million Filipinos –should not be overcharged and go hungry,” Romualdez said.
Romualdez thanked the PRISM representatives for providing lawmakers with valuable inputs on the state of the country’s rice industry.
“I’m glad that you are here, engaging with us,” he told them.
In its statement released earlier, the House emphasized that it is its duty to ensure a steady, stable, and affordable supply of these essential commodities for the Filipino people.