PUTTING a ceiling or cap on the prices of pork and chicken is not the appropriate approach to stop the rising cost of the food products, senators said yesterday.
President Duterte on Monday signed Executive Order 124, which imposed a 60-day price range limits for pork parts and dressed chicken in the National Capital Region (NCR) after pork prices soared to as high as P450 per kilo in January as a result of a shortage in local supply due to outbreaks of the African swine fever.
Under the EO, prices of pork parts like pigue (pork) was set at P270 per kilo, liempo (pork belly) at P300 per kilo, and dressed chicken at P169 per kilo. Before the EO was issued, pigue sells at P380 a kilo, liempo at P425 a kilo, and dressed chicken at P200 a kilo.
Senate president pro tempore Ralph Recto said rather than imposing a price ceiling, the government should instead boost local productivity and supply through the provision of technical and financial assistance to the hog industry.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan agreed that setting a price cap is an “ineffective” way of solving the problem, noting that even the price freeze previously imposed by the government on health products at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic last year had failed.
“We have seen that prices continued to go up despite the price freeze. So, how will they make the price ceiling effective? If the price freeze was not followed, what assurance do we have that the price ceiling can be properly implemented?” Pangilinan said.
Pangilinan said government should go after food price manipulators whom Agriculture Secretary William Dar had exposed during a recent Senate hearing.
“We should set an example and go after these price manipulators. Under the Price Act, a fine of P1 million can be imposed on anyone who will be caught violating the law,” he said.
Pangilinan recalled that as food czar when prices of rice increased in 2014, he created an inter-agency task force composed of the National Food Authority, Department of Trade and Industry, NBI, and the PNP who ran after profiteers and unscrupulous traders, and even a number of NFA managers.
As a result, he said numerous business permits were revoked or suspended, while cases were also filed against profiteers and hoarders, and a number of NFA employees “involved in diversion and re-bagging.”
Sen. Imee Marcos, committee on economic affairs chair, said market sellers may have a hard time complying with the price ceiling if middlemen sell pork and chicken products at a much higher price than what was imposed by the government.
The Department of Interior and Local Government yesterday directed local government units in the National Capital Region to implement the President’s order.
Interior Undersecretary for peace and order and officer-in-charge Bernardo Florece Jr. said:
“We direct our Metro Manila Mayors to comply with EO 124 signed by the President and ensure that prices of pork and chicken are regulated in their localities.”
He urged LGUs to activate their respective local price coordinating councils (LPCCs) and monitor public and private markets, in coordination with the Department of Trade and Industry, to prevent unwarranted price increases. – With Victor Reyes