Rice price ceiling, and city traffic

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By Danilo P. Padua, PhD

“We can go on and on with similar situation, with the government still discussing what proper answer should be provided for a given problematic situation that arises. ”

Before eight in the morning of Friday, Sept 8, 2023, I was driving in Baguio. I don’t normally drive to the city that early. I have no real reason to do it.
This day though, I had a very good motive to gladly cruise to the city for the medical examination of my grandchie, 12 summers young, who is applying for a visa to go to Canada. Oh, its her mom, my daughter- in-law who is a nurse, who was the applicant. She is already in Canada working as a nurse. The visa was for a permanent residency there in the cold neighbor of Uncle Sam.
I was surprised to see that Session road was closed to traffic. Many were confused, and not a few kiddo schoolers were already late for the start of their classes because of this. I came to know later that the closure was due to a country fair in the busy street that was supposed to have been held a week earlier as part of Baguio Day’s celebrations. The fair is to be held Friday to Sunday (Sept 8-10).
It seems that the city was somewhat remiss in informing the public about this event. Many were highly critical of this as the residents were used to having this kind of activities on weekends, not including Fridays. They are therefore suggesting that the city should adhere to the old practice of weekend schedule so that students and employees will not be unduly affected. It’s really a simple matter that implementing city units forgot to properly execute plans.
About one pm the same day, I made the mistake of passing through Bonifacio St on my way back to Trinidad. I was coming from Kisad road. It took me more than 15 minutes to break free from the very short road stretch from front of Bayanihan building to front of Center Mall, even though Session road was closed. It’s all because motorists were scarcely informed earlier of what is going to happen that day. Lessons learned, hopefully.
o-o-o
The current, albeit temporary, setting of rice price ceiling had gathered mixed reactions from various sectors. To me the institution of rice price ceiling is good for as long as it is for the long run, it is well-studied, and it considers both the consumers and concerned business people (wholesalers and retailers). It should also consider who and how it is to be implemented.
As it is, the idea is really good but it is deficient in so many things. It is like a building complete with walls but lacking in doors, windows and divisions to go with a rooftop that is full of holes. So, when the owner says, “let’s get in and sleep in that house”, they find out soon enough that it is not that liveable yet.
“Okay, let’s fix some of the loopholes as we sleep ”, says the owner. All along, members of his household is experiencing all the nasty effect of elements that prevail upon them.
The target of the rice price ceiling, as contained in Executive Order #39 and signed by Exec. Sec Lucas Bersamin, is the rice price at the retailers’ level. And what about the wholesalers, including the middlemen?
The retailers are saying that they purchased rice at a high price. “So if we are forced to sell at the PhP41-45.00/per kg we will incur big losses, we better stop selling. And we are just small business people” they sensibly chorused. So, the government reacted by saying, “OK, all registered and concerned grain retailers will be given PhP15,000.00”. See, that’s after Exec Order was signed.
We can go on and on with similar situation, with the government still discussing what proper answer should be provided for a given problematic situation that arises.
In other words, the rice price ceiling attempt is a real good piece of solution to a skyrocketing price. But proffered solutions at this time may fall short of being satisfactory.
It would be best at this time to continue raiding rice storage houses located in various places and immediately confiscate hoards that are proven to be illegally procured or stored beyond a reasonable time, then release the same to the market. This will surely lower the price of the commodity. After all, the supply and demand thing is in operation in relation to pricing. Easier said than done? Yes, if the powers that be are coy in making bold decisions.
The “raids” should always be done silently, without media fanfare. Results should always be released immediately after everything have been verified.
For curiosity, I have asked few rice retailers in Baguio and in the towns of Tublay, and La Trinidad in Benguet. Those in Tublay were not even so aware of the Exec. Order 39 as they are selling only the more fancy types of rice. Stacks of rice being sold are openly seen, and they are aplenty. One said, “My customers are not complaining. They are buying what they use to buy,” was the revelation.
Some retailers in Baguio are more aware and saying that they are losing since they are selling the types of rice that command lower price-the ones covered by the Order. In La Trinidad, lesser complaints were also met. It appears that the farther the place is from a big metropolis, the lesser is the problem on rice price ceiling. Obviously, there is no real dearth of rice supply in the market. The problem is in the bigger cities where rice is not distributed properly due to the continuous occurrence of typhoons and heavy rains creating an artificial supply shortage. And this was not apparent to the government people? Come on. **


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