Bill in Senate to bar price increases of essential goods mulled

October 21, 2010

Angie M. Rosales
The Daily Tribune
October 21, 2010

Sen. Francis Pangilinan is eyeing of introducing a legislation barring price increases of basic commodities during calamity period.

Pangilinan’s move came as he assailed yesterday reports on price hikes imposed by some oil companies in the wake of typhoon “Juan’s” onslaught.

“That is insensitive and uncalled for. It’s like rubbing salt to our wounds,” said the senator, who is the chairman both the agriculture and social justice committees in the upper chamber.

The senator said it can already be considered as already “bordering on criminal offense” which he labeled as corporate abuses being committed by the likes of the oil firms in the country, noting the timing of price increases they are imposing on the consumers.

“I don’t see why they need to raise their prices now. Can’t they put this off in the meantime? Now is a time when we all need to work together to rebuild after the world’s worst storm of the year. To even consider raising prices now are bordering on criminal offense already.

“We’re still reeling from the aftermath of the typhoon and billions-worth of crops had been destroyed. Instead of extending assistance to the victims of typhoons, they are adding burden to the public,” the senator lamented.

As a result of which, Pangilinan said he will now study the possibility of crafting a legislation that will prohibit price hikes during times of calamity to prevent corporate abuse especially when consumers are at their prey as they are vulnerable.

Sen. Ralph Recto, on the other hand, sought the immediate passage of the bill on crop insurance in light of the recent onslaught of typhoon Juan, which government officials estimate to have destroyed at least 10 percent, or about 105,000 metric tons, of rice crop in the Cagayan Valley region, the country’s second biggest production area.

“This proposed law should have been enacted after seeing the devastating effects of typhoons ‘Ondoy’ and ‘Pepeng’ last year on our agricultural sector. Now, with the most powerful storm in recent memory ravaging our croplands in Northern Luzon, the passage of this measure now becomes mandatory,” Recto, chairman of the Senate ways and means committee, said.

For this purpose, the senator filed Senate Bill 2131 which proposes to amend the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (Carper) and provide full crop insurance coverage to qualified beneficiaries.

He said as the typhoons that hit the country become stronger and stronger every year, the government should extend aid to all those affected, especially to the agricultural sector which most of the time suffers severely.

The total crops destroyed by the recent supertyphoon was pegged at P1.3 billion.

“These kinds of disasters take a great toll to Filipinos, especially those in the agriculture sector. And needless to say, farmers suffer the greater loss,” Recto said.

In stressing the need for crop insurance to farmers, Recto said that about 1.38 million metric tons of rice was wiped out when the Philippines was ravaged by storms in the last quarter of 2009.

“This is on top of the losses caused by El Niño, which may be as much as 816,372 metric tons of rice worth P12.24 billion this year,” he added.

He said that crop insurance is a risk management tool designed to even out agricultural risks and address the consequences of natural disasters to make losses more bearable, especially to the marginalized farmers.

Recto explained that while the Philippine Crop Insurance Corp. (PCIC) implements and manages the government program on agricultural insurance, only a small number of farmers avail of crop insurance because of the premium that they are required to pay.

“Although half of the premium is subsidized by the government, the remaining 50% is still a burden to some of our poor farmers,” he said.

This is why, he explained, he deemed it necessary for agrarian reform program beneficiaries to have full coverage, in order to widen the reach of crop insurance among farmers.

“We should not have to wait for the next super typhoon to again ravage our farmlands and leave our farmers with nothing but the prospect of a bleak future. Our farmers need all the assistance they can get,” Recto said.

In fact, the senator said, the cumulative insurance coverage and claims paid for rice and corn paid by the PCIC from 1981 to 2007 amounted to only P2.5 billion.

“That is just a fraction of the damage that resulted from the typhoons that hit the country last year. It now becomes more imperative that we expand the crop insurance coverage to allow more farmers security in times of emergency,” he said.

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