When then presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said at one point during the campaign that if elected, he would bring down the price of rice to P20 per kilogram, critics scoffed at the idea and dismissed it outright as well-nigh impossible.
Why? Because at the time the government was already importing rice from such countries as Vietnam and Thailand since domestic rice of production had fallen sharply, partly due to the 20 or so typhoons that hit the country every year.
The lifting of tariffs on rice imports was intended to bring down rice prices, but local rice farmers objected to the rice tariffication law as they claimed this would drive them deeper into poverty.
Last week, however, President Marcos inched closer to his campaign pledge to make rice prices affordable to ordinary Filipinos by inaugurating the return of the Kadiwa stores which were first rolled out during the term of his father Ferdinand Sr.
The Kadiwa sa Pasko stores will sell cheaper goods like rice at P25 per kilogram to help communities this coming Christmas season.
The President explained that the Kadiwa ng Pasko stores are able to offer cheaper prices for rice and other produce because farmers are given assistance or other expenses are shouldered by the government to help them sell these at a lower price, or the government gets from the buffer stock of the National Food Authority.
The Kadiwa sa Pasko stores will sell rice at a price similar to the cost of buying the staple food, that’s why rice can be retailed at only P25 per kilogram.
“We are nearing my dream of having rice at P20 per kilogram—we’ll get there, but we need to do a lot,” Marcos said.
According to the president, there is a need to widen the reach of the Kadiwa stores: to shield people from rising prices of goods brought by external factors.
The program was brought back during the Duterte administration, but unfortunately was not able to reach nationwide coverage as the COVID-19 pandemic brought it to a standstill.
Amid high inflation, the national government is trying to bring down prices of basic goods and services.
Marcos vowed to sustain the Kadiwa program well beyond Christmas by continuing to buy products directly from farmers while shouldering costs for transportation and other expenses so that it would not be passed on to consumers.
As of now, the Kadiwa stores operate only in selected local government units, but the plan is to broaden its reach.
As the concurrent Secretary of Agriculture, the President, having seen the potential of the program to help Filipinos cope with high inflation, wants to make it a national program.
And why not, if it will alleviate the burden on the shoulders of our people, particularly those living on the edge of poverty?