A worker arranges sacks of rice at a local rice store in Quezon City on October 4, 2023.
MANILA, Philippines — After seeing a sharp drop in his approval and trust ratings, President Marcos said the prices and availability of rice, not survey numbers, are the indicators of his governance, adding that the prices of the food staple are stabilizing because of measures implemented by the government.
“The media asked me recently about survey numbers. The truth is I do not look at the survey numbers that much. I am looking at whether the prices of rice are really going down and whether the supply of rice is really reaching all our countrymen,” Marcos said in a video posted on YouTube last Saturday.
“That is the true measure of whether I am doing the right thing. We have seen the results, the stabilizing of prices because of the price cap and the removal of the price cap,” he added in Filipino.
Marcos said his administration would implement other strategies to help farmers and ensure they are not incurring losses. He cited initiatives on irrigation, mechanization, cheap fertilizer, post-harvest facilities,
farm-to-market roads, lowering transport costs and the proper timing and balance of the importation of farm goods.
“We are doing everything to ensure that the prices of rice in the market would continue to destabilize and decrease,” he stressed. “There is no better gauge for our governance than to see our people experiencing comfort and convenience. That is my indicator: that there is no hunger or insecurity in terms of food.”
The President’s approval and trust ratings have seen “significant erosions,” falling by double digits in September, according to a nationwide Pulse Asia survey.
While a majority or 65 percent of respondents to the Sept. 10 to 14 poll said they approved of Marcos’ performance, it was lower by 15 points when compared to the 80 percent recorded in June. About 10 percent of the respondents said they disapprove of the Chief Executive’s performance while 25 percent remained undecided.
The same survey also found 71 percent saying they trusted Marcos – lower by 14 points from the 85 percent in June. Some six percent said they distrust the President while 23 percent were undecided on the matter.
In a media interview last Oct. 4, Marcos said the drop in his poll numbers was not surprising because people are having a hard time because of the higher prices of rice and other agricultural products.
“What’s important to me is that we make sure that people have enough to eat and that it is affordable to them,” Marcos said during the interview.
“You cannot blame the people. They are really hurting. That’s why we’re doing all of these things. That’s why we’re doing all of the things to try and maintain the prices at a level that is affordable to our people,” he added.
Responding to the escalating rice prices, the government implemented price ceilings on the food staple on Sept. 5 through Executive Order 39, which capped the prices at P41 per kilogram on regular milled rice and P45 per kilogram for the well-milled varieties.
The month-long imposition of price caps has helped stabilize the prices of rice in the market, Marcos claimed as he maintained that the country has sufficient supply of the food commodity. “I have said several times in my speeches that we do not have a supply problem,” he said.
Marcos also said the government would use the proceeds of the Rice Tariffication Law to provide farmers the equipment they need like tractors, harvesters and dryers. He also cited efforts to lower the costs of the transporters of food products.
He has directed the agriculture department to use the excess collections of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) to assist rice farmers and to boost production of the food staple. In a recent meeting with agriculture officials, the President said the RCEF excess collection beyond the P10 billion requirement should be used to provide drying, mechanization and other equipment that would sustain rice farmers’ productivity.
Under Republic Act 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law, revenues from rice tariffs should pay for the annual requirement of P10 billion for the RCEF to bankroll programs and projects raising the competitiveness and output of farmers of palay or unhusked rice.
The President has also approved the release of about P12.7 billion for the Rice Farmers Financial Assistance program, which aims to assist farmers tilling below two hectares of land – a move that is expected to benefit about 2.3 million small rice farmer beneficiaries who are registered in the registry system for basic sectors in agriculture as of June 30 this year. Each beneficiary will receive P5,000 in financial assistance. — Helen Flores