IT APPEARS rice retailers in Metro Cebu are ignoring the price cap on two categories of rice on the first day of implementation of Executive Order (EO) 39, which sets a price ceiling of P41 for regular rice and P45 for well-milled rice, on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2023.
In Cebu City, members of the Market Operations Division (MOD) went to the Carbon Public Market, the oldest and largest public market in Cebu Island, to check the prices and found that these remained the same.
Roberto Barquilla, MOD head, told SunStar Cebu they could only remind vendors to comply with EO 39 since they are still waiting for guidelines from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) regarding sanctions against violators.
Barquilla said the cheapest rice sold in Carbon was between P47 and P50 per kilo.
Joy Suralta, chief of the Consumer Protection Division (CPD) of DTI 7, said they were instructed by their central office in Manila to just monitor prices in both wet and supermarkets on the first day of EO 39’s implementation.
Suralta said they understood that some retailers wouldn’t be able to comply with the price cap.
“Tungod sa kakalit sa EO, basin ang retailers naa pay nakapalit sa mas mahal nga presyo (Due to the suddenness of the EO, some retailers may have purchased rice at a higher price),” she said on Tuesday.
She said the personnel from the Department of Agriculture (DA) will monitor prices in wet markets, while their agency will handle the supermarkets in the region.
She said they will also conduct profiling on small rice retailers affected by the EO.
However, Suralta admitted that the monitoring and profiling may take some time because of limited manpower. She said the CPD in Cebu, Bohol, Negros Oriental and Siquijor only have two personnel each, although they have recruited personnel from DTI’s other divisions to help.
She said the profiling will be used as basis for the cash assistance that they will extend to affect rice retailers.
This was confirmed by DTI 7 Director Maria Elena Arbon in a message via Facebook Messenger.
“Profiling of small rice retailers in anticipation of a plan by the government to give financial assistance to affected retailers. No details yet on the shape of the financial assistance,” she said.
Arbon said the monitoring and profiling started as early as 6 a.m. in the wet markets, and around 9 in most supermarkets.
She said the monitoring will be done daily, and reports will be submitted by 5 p.m.
In Mandaue City, the fear of losing income or, worse, an eventual shutdown of their business forced rice retailers to outright disobey the EO.
One vendor, 39-year-old Mary Claire Abarquez, said they had no choice since each sack of regular milled rice cost them P2,450, while well-milled rice cost them P2,650. They earn between P100 and P150 per sack, she said. If they comply with the price cap, they will be selling at a loss, she said.
“Mahadlok mi, pero naa man mi ikapakita nga mga resibo gikan sa supplier nga mahal gihapon among kompra. Naghuwat mi amo ng giingnan among mga supplier ani pero pa silay tubag,” she said.
(We’re afraid to get penalized, but we have receipts to show that the rice we bought from the supplier was expensive. We’re waiting since we already told our supplier about the situation but they have yet to reply.)
As for consumers, 50-year-old Carlito Reyes told SunStar Cebu it is important to live within one’s means.
“Budget lang gyud. Ginagmay lang ang palitun. Maghuwat lang gihapon mobarato na gyud finally,” he said.
(Let’s tighten our budget. We’ll just buy enough. We’ll just wait for the price to go down.)
Shopper Jonalyn Duron, 49, said she was still hoping President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. would fulfill his campaign promise to lower the price of rice to P20 per kilo.
The initiative to cap the price of rice came from the recommendation of the DTI and the DA after retail prices of locally produced and imported rice went up 14 percent.
EO 39, though, does not affect the prices of the more expensive varieties premium grade and special rice, which include the brands Ganador, Dinorado, Jasmine, Lion Ivory, Sinandomeng, Princess Bea and Angelica, among others. (KJF, HIC, JJL)