TV5 explainer: The implausible promise of rice at PHP20

CHEERS TO TV5 for countering the claim that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is nearing the fulfilment of his promise that every Filipino will be able to afford rice at PHP 20 per kilo. On November 16, Marcos Jr. launched the Kadiwa ng Pasko program with 12 stores nationwide. He said, “they (Kadiwa stores) are selling it at a price similar to the cost of buying the rice, so you can see rice prices at only PHP25 per kilogram. We are nearing my dream of having rice at PHP 20 per kilogram – we’ll get there, but we need to do a lot.”

Posted on November 17, the report highlighted the comment of Fermin Adriano, former Department of Agriculture (DA) Undersecretary, that the prevailing price of  rice in the market, not the price set by Kadiwa stores, determines whether we are really moving closer to lowering the price of rice to PHP20 per kilo. Based on the price monitoring of DA, TV5 said that as of November 16 the market price of rice is PHP38 to PHP50 per kilo. 

TV5 said that the farmgate price of palay costs PHP 15 to PHP 17 per kilo for private traders; PHP19 for the National Food Authority (NFA), which the agency set to help farmers earn more. The report said that it is important to note that milled rice is double the price of palay. 

The report cited Marcos Jr. ‘s explanation that Kadiwa rice is cheaper since it came from the NFA’s buffer stock. The report correctly pointed out that the buffer stock is  reserved for calamities and emergencies, an indication that using it for Kadiwa is neither ideal nor sustainable. 

The report also underscored Adriano’s statement that in order for the PHP 20-peso promise to materialize, the government has to allocate at least PHP 400 billion per year for rice support alone. Only PHP163 billion has been allocated for the entire DA for 2023. 

Adriano’s statements exposed Marcos Jr.’s poor understanding of the rice issue. As the current DA secretary, Marcos Jr. must be at least knowledgeable enough about this to achieve his promised PHP 20 per kilo of rice for every Filipino. 

Media must steer clear of becoming part of government propaganda. The opening of 12 Kadiwa stores nationwide can hardly provide for the national population. There is no point in highlighting that these heralds the promise coming true as that would be propaganda. Rice is at the heart of the Filipino diet, the staple without which Filipinos go hungry. Right now, more Filipinos are going hungry. There is no point repeating  statements that suggest otherwise.