Pangilinan: Price cap ineffective, go after food price manipulators

PUTTING a cap on prices of food during a lack of supply is ineffective, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said Tuesday, pushing government to go after the food price manipulators that Agriculture Secretary William Dar exposed at the Senate hearing.

“Dapat sampulan ang nagsasamantala. Sa ilalim ng Price Act, hanggang 1 milyong piso ang maaring multa sa mga lumalabag sa batas na ito,” said the former Presidential Assistant on Food Security and Agricultural Modernization.

“Dapat i-deputize ang NBI at PNP-CIDG at habulin yung mga nabanggit ni Secretary Dar na nagsasamantala,” he added, referring to the National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.

Pangilinan, whose Senate Resolution 618 and privilege speech were the basis for Monday’s Senate hearing, noted that the price freeze during the emergency situation of the pandemic failed.

“Tumataas ‘yong presyo kahit na may price freeze. Paano ngayon ipapatupad itong price ceiling? Kung yung price freeze hindi napatupad, ano ang assurance na ‘yung price ceiling maipapatupad?” he asked.

Malacañang on Monday issued Executive Order No. 124 ordering a 60-day price ceiling that pegs the prices of some food items as follows: P270 for a kilo of kasim and pigue, P300 for a kilo of liempo, and P160 for a kilo of dressed chicken.

Prior to EO 124, a kilo of pigue sold at P380, liempo at P425, and dressed chicken at P200, according to the DA’s Bantay Presyo Monitoring for February 1, 2021.

“Kung milyon-milyong kilo ng karne ang na-import, nasaan ang mga ito? Buksan ang mga cold storage facilities at alamin kung may hoarding ba nito,” Pangilinan said.

At Monday’s Senate hearing on rising food prices, Pangilinan called for immediate action of the appropriate government bodies to justify the price rise of basic commodities and to rectify the irregularities behind it.

“Sa gitna ng pandemya na walang trabaho at kulang ang kita, hindi pwede itong price cap lang ang isasagot natin sa hirap at gutom na nararamdaman ng ating mga kababayan,” he said.

Pangilinan recalled that as food security czar when rice prices were rising in 2014, he created an inter-agency task force composed of the National Food Authority (NFA), the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the NBI, and the PNP-CIDG.

He said that based on the Price Act and NFA’s Presidential Decree No. 4, he went after profiteers, unscrupulous traders, and even a number of NFA managers.

“May mga permit na na-revoke o na-suspend, meron pang mga kasong isinampa sa mga profiteers at hoarders, at maging ilang NFA personnel na involved sa diversion at re-bagging,” Pangilinan said.

“Hindi natin pinalampas ang mga mapagsamantala. Ganyan din dapat ngayon,” he added.