The Department of Agriculture (DA) has warned unscrupulous traders they will be fined as high as PHP100 million if found sowing a false shortage of agricultural commodities such as pork, chicken, fish, and vegetables or manipulating their prices.
DA Secretary William Dar said a sub-task group on economic intelligence was created by the Inter-Agency on Food Security that will investigate and file charges against individuals or organizations floating the idea that there is a food shortage. This is aside from the “Bantay Presyo” of the DA jointly with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).
“All entities, individuals and organizations found floating the idea of food shortage will be investigated and asked to substantiate their claims and failing to do so, will render them suspect of collusion with traders and wholesalers,” he said.
The DA, in partnership with the DTI, also proposed to involve the Department of Justice, Department of Interior and Local Government, National Bureau of Investigation, and the Philippine National Police in their monitoring and surveillance.
“Let us not sow panic among consumers and the public,” he stressed, adding they have increased their interaction and dialogues with the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) to further investigate traders and wholesalers engaging in the manipulation of supply and prices of basic commodities.
“The PCC has already started conducting its own investigation. They can impose penalties of as much as P100 million based on evidence of manipulation and other unscrupulous practices,” he said and reiterated there is enough food in the country.
Dar said they have also strategized a streamlined response in transporting more pork and pork products in Luzon and Metro Manila to stabilize its prices, including DA releases orders to ship from Visayas and Mindanao.
The proposed Executive Order likely to be signed by Malacañang this week will be the imposition of a price ceiling on pork at P270/kilo for kasim/pigue, P300/ kilo for liempo, and P160/kilo for chicken.
Stakeholders, meanwhile, have urged the government tp further develop aquaculture in the country since 66% of the protein requirement of a person comes from fisheries.
Toward this end, Norberto Chingcuanco, co-convenor of Tugon Kabuhayan and Feedmix Group vice president for planning, has proposed the multi-use of the existing dams nationwide including Pantabangan and San Roque, among others, Lake Mainit and Lake Lanao in Mindanao, for the development of more aquaculture ventures.
Tugon Kabuhayan convenor Asis Perez said the further development of aquaculture will not only help ensure food security but also boost employment in the rural areas particularly those living near the dams and lakes.
“There is just the need to consolidate requirements from government agencies like the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and concerned local government units for the private sector to develop aquaculture in the country,” he pointed out.