To ease high consumer prices, President Rodrigo Duterte will be issuing an executive order (EO) to implement the measures approved by the economic team last week.
During last night’s Cabinet meeting, the economic managers “proposed nine measures to contain inflation and a corresponding EO to get them implemented right away,” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia told the Inquirer.
Pernia, who heads the state planning agency National Economic and Development Authority, said the President “agreed” to sign the draft EO.
The nine measures included the eight approved by the Economic Development Cluster (EDC) last week, while the additional measure aims to ease vegetable prices, Pernia said.
Among the immediate reforms approved by the EDC when it met last Wednesday afternoon—right after the government reported the over nine-year high inflation rate of 6.4 percent in August, was a tighter watch on rice imports of the state-run National Food Authority (NFA).
The monitoring team will be led by the NFA and includes the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the National Bureau of Investigation, the Philippine National Police and farmers’ groups. The NFA is expected to slap sanctions or penalties on those found to be taking advantage of the rice supply.
Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Deputy Governor Diwa C. Guinigundo, who also sits in the interagency NFA Council, earlier disclosed that there were reports of rice being diverted from NFA warehouses to other end users. The diverted rice then end up in retail outlets as commercial rice instead of NFA rice.
The economic team also recommended that President Duterte issue a directive to further simplify and streamline the NFA’s licensing procedures for imported rice. It also urged the Senate to pass the rice tariffication bill within September.
Meanwhile, the EDC also recommended that the 4.6 million sacks of rice now already available in NFA warehouses, be released immediately.
“We also expect approximately two million sacks of rice previously contracted to be delivered before the end of September. In addition, the NFA Council authorized the importation of 5 million sacks that will be arriving over the next one and half months and another 5 million sacks will be imported early next year,” the economic managers said.
“To address the reported shortage in Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi, 2.7 million sacks will be allocated to these areas. In addition, harvest has also started in many parts of the country, with the projected harvest for 2018 of 12.6 million metric tons of rice, the equivalent of 252 million sacks,“ they added.
As for fish, the Department of Agriculture (DA) “committed to replicating the issuance of certificates of necessity to allow imports to be distributed in the wet markets in Metro Manila and to the other markets of the country,” the economic team said.
For chicken, “to reduce the gap between the farm gate and retail prices, the DA and the DTI will convene poultry producers and setup public markets where producers can sell directly to the end customer,” they said, with the DA expected to provide cold storage.
As for sugar, the Sugar Regulatory Administration will allow direct users to import the commodity.
The Bureau of Customs, for its part, “will prioritize the release of essential food items in the ports,” according to the EDC. /muf
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