MANILAThe chairman of the House appropriations committee on Wednesday urged the National Food Authority (NFA) to look into the possibility of "price manipulation" by rice traders in Mindanao.
Committee chairman Karlo Nograles made the call following reports of soaring rice prices in Zamboanga City, ranging from PHP50 to PHP70 per kilogram, due to shortage of the staple there.
Nograles also cited reports of rice prices in other areas of Region IX (Zamboanga Peninsula): Dipolog, Zamboanga Del Norte, PHP55 to PHP60 per kilo; Pagadian, Zamboanga del Sur, PHP55 to PHP60 pesos per kilo; Ipil, Zamboanga del Sur, PHP55 to PHP60 pesos per kilo; and Zamboanga City, PHP60 to PHP68 per kilo.
"Even accounting for less than optimal weather conditions, the discrepancy of the prices in the Zamboanga peninsula is huge. Masyado pa rin pong mahal ang presyong ito (The price is still higher [than the average]). Prices like these put a huge strain on the limited budgets of families who just want to have three square meals a day. The NFA should check if something illegal is going on," Nograles said.
Citing data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, Nograles said the average retail price of a kilo of regular milled rice in the country is PHP42.26, while the average retail price of well-milled rice is PHP45.71 per kilo.
Nograles also raised the possibility of rice hoarding by unscrupulous traders, which could be a reason for the high prices.
"They're manipulating the market in their favor but this is making probinsyanos suffer. Ang dami na pong nagsusumbong sa akin (A lot of people are complaining to me). The NFA must find out if this practice occurs in Zamboanga City alone or in the entire Zamboanga peninsula," he said.
In a separate interview, Zamboanga City Rep. Celso Lobregat confirmed that the price of rice shot up as high as PHP70 per kilo in the city.
Lobregat noted that the shortage of commercial rice supply was largely brought about by the stoppage of imported smuggled rice shipment here.
Last week, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel PiAol requested the NFA in other regions to provide additional 10,000 bags of rice of 50 kilos each to augment allocation for Zamboanga City.
Meanwhile, NFA Administrator Jason Aquino has directed the agency's field offices nationwide to deploy monitoring teams in public markets and even in the communities to ensure that NFA accredited retail outlets are selling the rice at the government prescribed price and are compliant with the trading rules and regulations.
He said rice monitoring also covers the price and supply flow of commercial rice.
Aquino said he has also authorized these monitoring teams to conduct inspection in rice mills and private warehouses to make sure that there is no rice hoarding.
He said the agency is mandated to stabilize the supply and prices of the staple especially in stricken areas as a result of a natural or man-made calamity or emergency. (PNA)
Source: Philippine News Agency