Marcos wants to slash rice prices to P20 per kilo

Philippine president-elect Ferdinand
Philippine president-elect Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., at a news conference at his headquarters in Mandaluyong City, Metro Manila, Philippines, May 23, 2022. REUTERS/Lisa Marie David

President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has said that he was in talks with rice traders to hold the current prices of rice, saying that he seeks to slash rice prices to as low as P20 per kilo.

Marcos said in an interview last Thursday (May 26) that bringing down the price of rice to P20 per kilo is an "aspiration" and target of his administration, but he did not want to do so by sacrificing the earnings of local farmers.

“We need to form the value chain. I’m already in talks with several traders and asked them if it’s possible to hold the current prices for a few months. I think we’ll be able to do it as a first step,” he said.

"But in the long term we need to fix the value chain. That’s the only way to do it," Marcos added.

The incoming president said that one of the biggest challenges in developing agriculture was attracting young people to join the industry.

“Unfortunately farmers don’t want their children to become farmers too. To address this, we must employ new technologies, it has to be industrial farming to attract the youth to pursue careers in agriculture,” he said.

Marcos further noted that the local agriculture industry should be protected against threats from bigger volumes of cheaper imported agricultural products.

He expressed reservations about ratifying the mega trade deal, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), saying that the Philippines needed to ensure that local farming was competitive before opening local markets to suppliers under the trade agreement.

The RCEP trade accord includes the 10-member ASEAN along with China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. The trade deal was approved by the Palace in September and brought to the Senate for approval.

“I do not know if our agriculture sector is sufficiently robust to take on the competition that the opening of the markets will cause,” Marcos said.

“We should study it carefully, that if we ratify it now what will be the effect on the farming community; our farmers especially, they need protection,” he added.

Regarding appointments to his economic team, Marcos has so far announced former budget secretary and incumbent Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Benjamin Diokno as secretary of finance; former chief of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Felipe Medalla as BSP governor; and San Miguel Tollways Corp. chief Manuel Bonoan as public works and highways secretary.

Arsenio Balisacan, who served as NEDA chief during the administration of the late former president Benigno Aquino III, was reappointed to the same post by Marcos.

Marcos is expected to appoint former University of the Philippines president and Management Association of the Philippines president Alfredo Pascual as trade and industry secretary.

Office-holders for other key economic posts, including the Department of Agriculture, Department of Budget and Management, Bureau of Internal Revenue and Bureau of Customs have not been announced yet.