The Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) sealed a partnership for strengthened coordination and mutual advisory assistance on competition concerns given the agriculture sector’s primary importance on consumer welfare and inclusive development.
“This has been a much-anticipated partnership that puts the PCC and the DA at the forefront of inclusive development and consumer welfare promotion,” PCC chair Arsenio Balisacan said.
“Cognizant of the DA’s role in developing our agriculture sector and the sector’s importance in the economy, the PCC is well-suited to assist and support the DA by looking into market conduct that ultimately affect prices and output,” he said.
Balisacan said the partnership would allow the PCC and DA “to cooperate, coordinate, and to share information with respect to policies, markets, among others, in such that PCC will be able to conduct its investigation properly and (in) timely manner, and also for DA to be able to implement its policies.”
The memorandum of agreement (MOA) facilitates information and knowledge-exchange between the two agencies for matters, issues or concerns involving competition in the agriculture sector.
Enabling wider access to information and cooperation, one agency is able to inform and guide the other in issues that fall within its respective field.
Apart from information exchange, other forms of cooperation that may be pursued by the PCC and DA under the MOA include investigative and enforcement support, and creation of fact-finding bodies for inquiries into the sector.
The collaboration of PCC and DA’s top brass brings together two recognized experts in agriculture, poverty reduction, and policy-making to create a fair and level playing field in the sector for the benefit of both farmers and consumers.
“At the center of this partnership is the active contribution of know-how and expertise, with both agencies charged with the common responsibility of addressing critical constraints to poverty reduction and growth in the agriculture sector, including market conduct harmful to either consumers or farmers, or both,” Balisacan said.
DA Secretary William Dar, for his part, said President Rodrigo Duterte signed the rice tariffication law to make the rice farmers become more productive, to be more competitive, and prosperous.
However, Dar pointed out the situation today resulting from the tariffication law, “there came volumes of rice that have been imported –more than 2 million metric tons (MT)– and at the same time, you see problems in some areas of the country where palay prices are going down.”
“So, it is really necessary for us to collaborate with the Philippine Competition Commission for the very purpose of appreciating why is there such a management of imported rice products and at the same time the falling rice prices in the farm,” he noted.
Even with the flooding of 3.4 million metric tons of rice by the National Food Authority (NFA) in the market, Dar said “we don’t see the outcome or impact of more imports of rice. That’s the reason this collaboration with the PCC is very important so that they (are) having that mandate to look at whether fair trade is happening or is there some collusion between and among importers, traders and millers.”
“The PCC needs to review and come up with the result of their investigations. We will be there to help them and provide relevant information,” he said.
The DA chief further assured the public that ‘the government is working’ to lower the price of rice and at the same time uplift the lives of rice farmers.
“The instrumentalities of government is being fully and properly pursued so that at the end of the day, we shall be able to have the consuming public have the right prices for their rice in the market, and at the same time see to it that the rice farmers have the right prices for their produce,” he said. (PNA)