Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos has rallied local governments to implement direct interventions such as providing fertilizers and seeds to farmers while buying their produce and selling these at pop-up stores to help keep prices of rice low and ensure ample supply of the grain.
“Local government units are the front liners in the war against high prices of basic goods, including rice. LGUs play a major role in securing cheap and steady supply of essential products. We can help keep prices low at the grassroots level,” said Marcos, the only incumbent local executive running for senator in the 2019 midterm polls.
“In Ilocos Norte, we have been able to keep prices of rice at an affordable P27 per kilo in the poorest areas in the province. In some parts of the country, rice prices have shot up to as much as P55 to P57 per kilo—way higher than the prevailing prices in Ilocos Norte,” she added.
Marcos said LGUs can replicate the efforts in her province and roll out Kadiwa pop-up stores to sell heavily discounted basic goods, including the Filipino staple food.
“I am a GI (Genuine Ilocano) so I really get mad when prices of basic goods spiral out of control—and that is what is happening now. Basic goods are no longer affordable,” she said.
“Because of interventions from our provincial government, we have successfully maintained low prices of basic goods. For the poorest of our people, food accounts for almost 60 percent of their income. Price increases really have an adverse effect on their income, on their cost of living, unless we help tide them over,” she said.
Marcos said replicating the Kadiwa centers or rolling stores will not only create a sure market for farmers’ produce but ensure a steady supply of cheap basic goods for poor families as well. The Kadiwa stores can likewise carry cheap Christmas goodies and Noche Buena packages.
“Pop-up stores are the appropriate design technology now because these can be rapidly deployed and dismantled, and can carry more stocks of goods. When the intense need for the Kadiwa goods has subsided, the pop-up stores can be redeployed to the next high-poverty communities,” she added.
Marcos also called on the National Food Authority to shelve its plan to increase its selling price of NFA rice from P27 per kilo to between P33 to P35 per kilo because it continues to incur losses.
Instead of increasing the price of NFA rice, Marcos said the government should seriously consider removing the Value Added Tax on rice for at least a year.
“The poor can no longer cope with the record-high prices of food. It is the obligation of the state to help our people. As it is, prices of commercial rice have skyrocketed, and there is not enough supply of cheap NFA rice,” she added.
Marcos said LGUs must work hand-in-hand with the national government in addressing the problem of spiralling food prices.
“This will entail using their own resources to support mechanisms that will keep food prices low. Limitations on the use of resources for LGUs must also be relaxed to help us be more agile in providing solutions while retaining stringent accountability systems,” she said.