Economic and Development Secretary Arsenio Balisacan is set to recommend alternative measures to rice price ceiling.

Amid the mandated price cap on rice prices, Economic Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said the government is looking at solutions to come up with affordable staple food in the market without hurting the agricultural sector in the country during the press briefing in Malacanang Thursday.

“The mandated price ceiling – when that order was issued — that was very clear. It’s temporary. So, as soon as we can see a better option of addressing that and we have achieved already the objective then, it should be lifted. We will meet soon to recommend other options. There are, as I said earlier, there are options, for example, we have made mentioned about reducing the tariff while world prices are rising,” Balisacan said.

Balisacan’s statement came after he was asked if the lifting of the mandated rice price ceiling was discussed during the ninth NEDA board meeting chaired by President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Thursday.

Marcos had first approved the recommendation of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to implement the mandated price ceilings on regular and well-milled rice in the market through Executive Order (EO) No. 39.

Under the EO, the mandated price cap on regular milled rice is PhP41.00 per kilogram while the mandated price ceiling on well-milled rice is PhP45.00. The order took effect on September 5.

Balisacan stood firm that the implementation of the mandated rice price ceiling was just temporary, which meant that it would be lifted once the government came up with another option.

Balisacan said that “reducing the tariff” was one of the options that they were looking that would address the increasing prices of basic commodities “regardless of the situation” even if it meant a greater loss for the government.

“Of course, you have to find other options of protecting our people, and reducing the tariff temporarily would be such an option. But in doing so, the exercise that we will do is to ensure that farm farmers are protected, they are not going to be worse off. That is the objective: nobody should be worse off. The only worst off here would be the government because there will be less revenue from the tariffs. But, you know, what is a few billions of losses compared to greater suffering of our population from high prices. We don’t want that,” Balisacan said.

Balisacan said the NEDA would not recommend the lifting of the mandated rice price ceilings, stressing that they would just “provide, look at the options and the current situations” to address the problem of the prices of basic commodities.

Balisacan said that they were monitoring other exporting countries like Thailand and Vietnam.

“They may also decrease their exports. So those are the ones causing prices in the global markets to rise and initially that was induced by this expectation that El Niño will continue to intensify, and will be there until the first quarter of next year. So, you’re looking at a long period at elevated prices in the global market,” Balisacan said.

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