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Marcos Jr. urges swift aid for rice retailers amid price controls

President Bongbong Marcos has issued a directive to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to accelerate the distribution of financial assistance to rice retailers impacted by Executive Order No. 39.

The EO sets price limits at P41 per kilo for regular milled rice and P45 per kilo for well-milled rice.

However, the DTI has not disclosed the funding source, eligibility criteria for retailers, or the precise subsidy amounts.

The 2023 General Appropriations Act did not initially allocate funds for subsidies to rice retailers. Nevertheless, it establishes a contingent fund of P13 billion, earmarked for unforeseen or urgent activities and projects within government agencies, government-owned corporations, and local government units.

The fund cannot be utilized for vehicle purchases but is available for addressing legal obligations stemming from authoritative decisions, such as compromise agreements, arbitration awards, mediation settlements, and presidential travel expenses.

Trade Secretary Fred Pascual has mandated the establishment of a Special Task Force to execute EO 39. The DTI will extend financial aid, loan programs, logistical support, market connections, and assistance to affected rice retailers, including small supermarkets.

The DTI has specified that financial assistance for retailers and wholesalers in wet markets and neighborhood sundry stores will be administered through the Department of Social Welfare and Development. The aid aims to bridge the gap between the cost of their current rice inventory and the mandated price ceiling.

Moreover, the government intends to streamline transportation to reduce expenses related to rice delivery from traders to retailers. Plans are also underway to connect local farmers with supermarket chains and other retailers, promoting bulk purchases and advance buying.

DTI Assistant Secretary Agaton Uvero has convened the Special Task Force, which will initiate the profiling of retailers and identify potential beneficiaries in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture, local government units, and Local Price Coordinating Councils.

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