Marcos' exercise of 'special economic powers' proposed

President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. might soon be holding special powers to control hoarding of essential items, manage transport woes, investigate market abuse in the energy sector, and extend loans to businesses producing essential goods.

Albay 2nd district Rep. Joey Salceda (left) and President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (right). (FILE PHOTOS/MANILA BULLETIN)

In an official communication to Leyte 1st district Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, the presumptive House Speaker in the upcoming 19th Congress, Albay 2nd district Rep. Jose Ma. Salceda proposed a “Bayan Bangon Muli (BBM) package that integrates a significant number of special powers to curtail price increases.”

The proposal will run for 18 months and during that time, Marcos can have anti-hoarding powers, powers to incentivize production and provide loans to suppliers of essential goods, and anti-price-gouging powers to stop the economic impact of the high inflation rate recently recorded.

“June’s year-on-year inflation rate, at 6.1 percent, is the highest since November 2018, with very few indications of going down in the coming months,” Salceda said.

The proposal will further give the President transport emergency powers and powers to mobilize the Armed Forces to expedite programs.

The lawmaker also wants “motu proprio (act taken without formal request from another party)” powers be given to the Department of Energy (DOE), Philippine Competition Commission (PhCC), and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) “to investigate for possible market abuse in the energy and essential goods sectors".

READ: Inflation climbs to 3-year high in June

“While the causes of inflation remain largely external, government must ensure a first-do-no-harm policy. That means interventions must remain market-oriented, and government efforts must be focused on increasing constrained supply rather than manipulating prices,” Salceda said, thumbing down what he called “brute force price ceilings” in favor of “price abuse prevention mechanisms".

The lawmaker’s main proposal is the anti-hoarding and anti-price-gouging special powers that could be given to the President.

Under the anti-hoarding order, “no person shall accumulate (1) in excess of the reasonable demands of business, personal, or home consumption, or (2) for the purpose of resale at prices in excess of prevailing market prices, goods or services which have been designated by the President as scarce materials".

While Salceda did not propose a price cap, he wants vendors to stop selling essential goods at “unconscionably excessive” prices by making it unlawful for them to take “undue advantage” of the dwindling supplies in the market.

The Albay lawmaker likewise wants to solve the transport and energy woes by allowing the President “to use private roads, expedite public projects, conduct alternative working arrangements, and temporarily control facilities around ports and airports to address supply bottlenecks".

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) and Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) should also find a way to increase the number of public vehicles on the road, Salceda said, noting that drivers he had talked to would rather stay home than ply the roads because of the cost of fuel.

However, he understood that the current public transport system is not enough for the long run.

“We have to find ways to integrate, consolidate, and rationalize our public transport system, so that we provide more stable public services, give drivers and transport workers a more assured income stream, and make our transport system cleaner, safer, and more dependable,” he said.