Presidential bet Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. was lambasted over social media after he promised to lower the price of rice to PHP20 — PHP30 (US$4 — US$6) per kilo if elected president.
Marcos Jr. said last week that he would recommend a price cap on rice and mandate government agencies to act as middlemen in the procurement of harvested rice if he wins in the May elections.
His premise is that a price cap would bring down rice prices to the PHP20 to PHP30 level.
Data from the Agriculture department states that local commercial rice prices in Metro Manila currently retail at PHP38 to PHP50, while imported varieties sell for PHP37 to PHP52 per kilo, depending on variety.
Former Agriculture secretary Manny Pinol said that while Marcos Jr.’s plan is initially “feasible,” it could not be sustained in the mid to long term as the government would have to subsidize the prices between palay (raw rice) and milled rice, sold to the public.
For an already cash-strapped government, subsidizing any product or service would create greater pressure on an economy ill-equipped to face more unnecessary expenses.
Marcos Jr.’s plan ultimately defies the law of supply and demand that the amount of a commodity, product, or service available and the desire of buyers for it are factors regulating its price.
The demand for rice is constantly growing as it is considered the country’s top staple food.
Fellow presidential candidate Panfilo Lacson questioned the campaign promise of Marcos Jr.
Speaking in at a press conference, Lacson said: “Did he provide an answer on how to do it? It’s easy to say we will bring down the prices of rice but the important question is how? How to do it?
Lacson said he greatly admired the knowledge of Pinol on all matters related to the agriculture and food security.
And while other presidential bets have spoken out against the Rice Tariffication Law that allows unlimited importation of rice based on certain conditions, Marcos Jr. said he would only seek to amend the controversial law, which rice farmers and millers have stood against ever since it was signed into law.
Marcos Jr. said among the amendments he would seek would be to limit or ban the importation of rice in the event the country has a bumper crop of the staple.
He also said that the country should strengthen the planting and harvesting of palay.
The Rice Tariffication Law allows unlimited imports by the private sector subject to the procurement of a phytosanitary permit from the Bureau of Plant Industry and payment of a 35 percent tariff for shipments from Southeast Asian countries.
Marcos Jr. also said that barangays and local government units should serve as middlemen when the national government buys rice harvests from local farmers.
This, however, would drive rice wholesalers out of business, even if they have the facilities like warehouses and trucks to bring rice to the markets, which local government units do not have.
University of the Philippines Professor Solita Monsod, who also served as head of the National Economic and Development Authority, had stated on several occasions that of all the public figures she had taught, Marcos Jr. was the one who had little understanding of the nature of economics.
Among her other past students is Robredo, who earned a degree in economics, aside from law.
By comparison, all the other presidential bets are college graduates, while only Marcos Jr. failed to earn the equivalent of a bachelors’ degree during the seven years he spent at Oxford. He also took short courses in Wharton, based on his official bio-data.