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Rogue traders face up to P100-M fine

The Department of Agriculture has warned unscrupulous traders and manipulators that they would be fined as high as P100 million if they are found sowing a false shortage of agricultural commodities such as pork, chicken, fish, and vegetables or manipulating their prices.

Agriculture Sec. William Dar said a sub-task group on economic intelligence was created by Inter-Agency on Food Security that would investigate and file charges against individuals or organizations floating the idea that there is a food shortage. This is aside from the Bantay Presyo of the joint DA-Department of Trade and Industry.

“(All) entities, individuals and organizations who are floating the idea of food shortage (will be under investigation).. (They will be asked to) substantiate their claims and otherwise, failing to do so, renders them suspect of collusion with traders and wholesalers,” Dar said.

The DA, in partnership with the DTI also penned the proposal to involve the Department of Justice, Department of Interior and Local Government, National Bureau of Investigation, and the National Police in their monitoring and surveillance.

“Let us not sow panic among consumers and the public,” he said.

Dar said the DA has increased interaction and dialogues with the Philippine Competition Commission to further investigate traders and wholesalers engaging in the manipulation of supply and prices of basic commodities.

“The PCC has already started conducting its own investigation. They can impose penalties of as much as PHP100 million based on evidence of manipulation and other unscrupulous practices,” he said.

The DA chief has reiterated there is enough food in the country.

The products are just manipulated by some traders taking advantage of the pandemic situation, he added.

They have also strategized a streamlined response in transporting more pork and pork products in Luzon and Metro Manila to stabilize its prices. These as the DA releases orders to ship from Visayas and Mindanao.

The proposed Executive Order that would be signed by Malacañang this week would be the imposition of a price ceiling on pork at P270 per kilogram for kasim/pigue; P300 per kilogram for liempo; P160 per kilogram for chicken.

These would be for the National Capital Region for 60 days as the DA aims to prevent further price hikes on meat in the country; prevent opportunistic businesses from illegally manipulating the prices of basic necessities and prime commodities, and help the Filipino consumers who are still affected by the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.

Meanwhile, stakeholders urged the government for the development of more aquaculture in the country as 66 percent of the protein requirement of a person came from fisheries.

To attain such, Norberto Chingcuanco, co-convenor of Tugon Kabuhayan and Feedmix Group vice president for planningy, proposed for the multi-use of the existing dams nationwide for the development of more aquaculture.

Chingcuanco said such dams include the Pantabangan and San Roque, among others, Lake Mainit and Lake Lanao in Mindanao.

At present, he noted that there are already pending applications for the multi-use — for irrigation and development of aquaculture — of Pantabangan Dam.

For his part, Tugon Kabuhayan convenor Asis Perez said the development of more aquaculture does not only solve food security but also boosts employment in the rural areas, particularly those living near the dams and lakes.

“There is just the need to consolidate the requirements needed — from government agencies such as the National Irrigation Administration, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and concerned local government units — for the private sector to develop aquaculture in the country,” he said.