Price freeze won’t solve high cost of pork, chicken — senators

Published February 2, 2021, 6:00 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senators believe that the prize freeze to be imposed by the government will not be an effective measure to address the increasing cost of pork and chicken products.

Senator Ralph Recto (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

“I don’t think a price freeze will help when the problem is supply. It may exacerbate the problem,” Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said in a text message sent to reporters on Tuesday.

On Monday, President Duterte signed the executive order imposing a 60-day price cap for pork and chicken products in the National Capital Region, as recommended by the Department of Agriculture (DA), to arrest the soaring food prices.

The price ceilings were set at P270 per kilogram for pork kasim and pigue, P300/kg for pork liempo, and P160/kg for dressed chicken. These would be enforced in public markets starting February 8, Monday, DA Sec. William Dar said.

Recto, however, said a better solution would be to increase supply of the commodities and help local producers increase their productivity.

Senator Imee Marcos also lamented that small vendors in Metro Manila will be at a disadvantage when the price freeze takes effect.

“Mahirapan mag comply ang mga pobreng tindera natin sa mga palengke ng Metro Manila — paano nila ibebenta ng P250 kung ang bili nila sa trader at byahero eh, nasa P320/kilo na (Our poor vendors in Metro Manila markets will find it difficult to comply — how will they sell at P250 per kilo when they bought the products from traders and transporters at P320 per kilo)?” Marcos said in a separate message.

“The immediate solution to inflated pork prices is neither unenforceable price ceilings nor importation,” she said.

For her, the solution will be for the government to implement a “direct and extensive” intervention assisting hog raisers. The DA, she said, “[should] use its vehicles, personnel [and] assets, all its and resources to transport hogs to Manila, esp from [Visayas and Mindanao]!”

Sen. Francis Pangilinan likewise maintained that even with a price freeze, the cost of commodities will continue to increase. During the Senate hearing Monday on the issue, he recalled the government imposing in November last year a 60-day price freeze on essential goods in Luzon in the wake of Typhoon Ulysses.

“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?” Pangilinan, who was a former Presidential Assistant on Food Security and Agricultural Modernization, said.

Like his colleagues,  Pangilinan said the DA should go after unscrupulous traders who have been manipulating the prices, as Dar claimed.

He said they could tap the National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine National Police to aid in the operations against overpricing.

“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.