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Why BBM's P20 Rice Is as Real as Tallano Gold

Mamerto Adan is a feature writer who is back in college once again. Science is one of his favorite topics.

why-bbms-p20-rice-is-as-real-as-tallano-gold

We know that the fabled Tallano Gold is a gag, Ferdinand Marcos’ son is about to make another ridiculous claim.

Before Rodrigo Duterte became president, he made a bold statement about streaking in the contested West Philippine Sea on a jet ski. This was after he was asked questions regarding the Chinese incursions in the said area, which troubled the fishermen and spoiled the resources with their artificial islands. It later became clear that those artificial islands were no innocent structures, but intended for Chinese military base. And after Duterte became president, it also became clear that he had no intentions of making a stand on the West Philippine Sea, and even maintained a friendly relationship with China at the cost of economic zones, and the safety of the fishermen. His jet ski rhetoric then became an infamous symbol of his administration's empty promises. As what the critics pointed out, it was all bravado, and no action, and at some point, a low-level deception.

And when Duterte’s term nears its end, the people then made a rather odd choice for his successor. During the 2022 Philippine national election, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (or Bongbong) won via landslide victory, which puzzled some observers. Bongbong Marcos is the son of the older Ferdinand, a known dictator with a track record of theft, corruptions and human rights abuses. Bongbong himself has controversies to boasts, like his unpaid taxes and fabricated Oxford credentials. Yet, the people still voted for him despite of the massive red flag in his resume. The problem here is that his platforms for presidency is not clear, though like his predecessor he also made a rather bold promise.

He will reduce the price of rice to P20 a kilo. That is less than half a dollar.

The Claim

Marcos Jr. during campaign.

Marcos Jr. during campaign.

Firstly, we need to go back where it all started. It was first reported last April 2022 by various news outlet, like the Philippine Daily Inquirer (April 18, 2022). In an interview, Bongbong Marcos vowed to bring down the price of rice if he wins the presidency. He aims to set the price at P20 to P30 per kilo by recommending a price cap.

And to do this, he needs an inventory of rice harvest in the country, while he will order the Department of Agriculture and the National Food Authority to procure rice from local farmers at competitive price. In this way, rice cartels will be prevented from controlling the supply. Indeed, there won’t be a need to import rice, by protecting the interests of local farmers. His other plans include allocating more funds to the Department of Agriculture and pushing for the implementation of the Free Irrigation Law. For farmers to store their produces, government owned storage facilities should be set up, to eliminate the excess cost of rice storage in private storages. Finally, the price of fertilizers too should be lowered, and loans with feasible terms will be provided to the farmers. Concerned local government units must act as middlemen when procuring rice from local farmers.

Upon his tenure as a president, Marcos will place more importance on research and development in the field of agriculture.

Overall, this should be enough to lower the price, and on paper it sounds good. The Philippines is on its way towards solving its rice problems. But people think lowering its price to the desired P20 a kilo is too good to be true. At some point, it could do more harm than good.

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The Problems

Rice milling.

Rice milling.

As critics pointed out, the Marcoses are good propagandists, and they worry that it’s one of those feel-good stories to lure voters. Other politicians, and even local farmers felt that attaining the 20 pesos per kilo is as real as the Easter Bunny. At present, the price of rice in the Philippines could reach P50, or about a Dollar per kilo. But according to local peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng PIlipinas (KMP), controlling the price of rice was nothing new. Back in the Martial Law days, his dad tried to subsidized rice through the implementation of Kadiwa programs. But like many of Ferdinand Marcos’ project, the Kadiwa program was characterized by corruptions, hoardings and raids. In fact, it did nothing but increase the price of rice. And Marcos’ promise seems to mirror his father’s failed Kadiwa project, with the same blunder looming to repeat.

Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, an economist, also refuted Marcos’s promises. According to him, bringing the price to P20 a kilo will kill the 3.4 million rice farmers. It will be only possible through rice importation and absence of taxes.

As what was explained by a news outlet, the price of farmgate rice is different from the price of milled rice. Infact, farmgate rice cost half the price, a common rule of the thumb. But the price of milling, transport and logistic could add up, hence raising the milled rice to what it is now. If the price ruling applies here, the cost of farmgate rice must fall to P10, way below the production costs of the farmers. That’s why the farmers weren’t delighted at the announcement of P20 per kilo, as it never addressed the processing and transport cost, and could result to production losses. The price hike of the said produce wasn’t even a local problem. Neighboring countries must also deal with the price hike thanks to the rising cost of fertilizer brought by factors like the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Marcos suggested to amend the rice tariffication law, and implying a return to state-controlled rice imports. A bad move, because the state controlling the price imports was what raised the price of rice.

Marcos' Flaws

Agriculture Secretary William Dar agrees with Salceda regarding the troubles with the price reductions. He also explained that Marcos must be talking about the farmgate price, not the milled ones which cost only P19. And if that’s the case, making the farmgate rice P20 per kilo could benefit the farmers, with their incomes raised. Either Bongbong was misquoted or he made a miscalculation, it probably confirmed what the critics pointed out.

Bongbong Marcos has a major weakness.

During the campaign period he evaded debates, a move that people felt his way of covering up his flaws. And the flaws began to manifest itself through his outlandish promise of extreme rice price reduction. He simply has no idea on what really goes on, reckless on calculations that lead to miscalculations and no background in economics.

And now that he is the president, expect more blunders to come.

References

1. Baclig, Cristina Eloisa (13 May 2022). "The wait-and-see period for Bongbong Marcos’ ‘P20 rice’ promise". Inquirer.net.

2. Habito, Cielito (3 May 2022). "Wild promises and P20 rice". Inquirer.net.

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