AT LEAST 179 micro rice retailers in Cebu flocked to Barangay Subangdaku Gymnasium in Mandaue City on Friday, Sept. 29, 2023, for the third payout of the cash assistance for retailers whose incomes had been affected by the rice price cap imposed by the National Government.
Therese Sabagala, project development officer of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) 7 said the beneficiaries were from the cities of Mandaue and Danao, and the towns of Catmon and Cordova. They each received P15,000 to help their businesses.
The payout facilitated by the DSWD under its Sustainable Livelihood Program-Economic Relief Subsidy (SLP-ERS) aims to address challenges caused by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s Executive Order (EO) 39 that sets the price ceiling for regular milled rice at P41 per kilo and P45 per kilo for well-milled rice (WMR).
The first rice cash assistance payout in Cebu was on Sept. 14, and the second was on Sept. 22.
Sabagala said they are still waiting for an order from the DSWD Central Office in Manila for instructions on a possible fourth cash payout.
Maria Hernan, 55, and Nelia Laluna, 51, sari-sari store owners from Mandaue City, welcomed the aid as it would help them replenish the stocks in their store.
Hernan said it will also help pay for her family’s daily needs.
Rice retailers at the Mandaue City Public Market (MCPM) admit to losing almost P10,000 of their monthly income after the EO’s implementation.
Raul Diano, 43, a rice vendor, used to earn around P50,000 but now makes about P40,000 when the rice price cap took effect.
Diano said aside from buying the rice at high prices from his supplier, he struggles to balance his earnings to pay his workers and buy other materials needed for his business, such as plastic bags.
Another vendor, Jamel (not her real name), said she is starting to lose at least P100 daily from selling WMR at P45 per kilo. Before the rice price cap’s implementation, she sold the WMR at P48 to P50 per kilo.
Under Republic Act 7581 or the Price Act, violations carry a penalty of imprisonment for a period of not less than one year nor more than 10 years, or a fine of not less than P5,000 nor more than P1 million, or both, depending on the discretion of the court.
Price cap lift
Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual said they are set to meet with President Marcos to review the EO’s implementation to possibly lift the rice price cap within the next days and find better options to ensure consumer protection and secure the country’s rice supply.
Marcos said government could ease the price cap on rice once the cost in the market stabilized. He had high hopes that this would happen after the harvest season from September to October.
“Maybe if the market lowers the price, we can reduce the controls we have in place,” Marcos said.