BBM should have listened to Magno

By Herbert Vego

WE all have heard of the natural law of supply and demand: An increase in the supply of goods tends to drive prices downward, whereas a surge in demand exceeding supply can send prices soaring.

Thus, despite our fertile farms, our farmers no longer produce enough rice.  Alas, that’s an excuse for smugglers and hoarders to import cheap rice and sell them locally at bloated prices.

We all know that Finance Undersecretary Cielo Magno had to resign after questioning President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s Executive Order 39, mandating price ceiling on regular milled rice at ₱41 per kilo; and well-milled rice at ₱45.

I have yet to see a rice retailer obeying the order. While at the Jaro public market yesterday, I saw regular-milled rice tagged at ₱47.

EO 39 reminds me of the apocryphal anecdote about 11th-century King Canute of England who sat on the seashore and commanded the waves to stop, only to be disappointed.

Going back to Magno, this corner applauds her decision to return to teaching Economics at the University of the Philippines.

Methinks President Marcos, who remains concurrent Secretary of Agriculture, should visit her classes.

The lady professor rightly argued that due to the rice price ceiling, well-off consumers might resort to hoarding.  And importers would tend to hoard more, knowing the lack of supply would inevitably push prices higher.

Should we expect lower prices from the proposal of the Department of Finance’s (DOF) to reduce the rice import tariff rates from 35-percent to 10 percent?

That must be music to the ears of big rice smugglers and hoarders, none of whom have been charged in court despite a fleeting congressional investigation of 10 suspects named by Ilonggo Congressman Horacio “Toto” Suansing (2nd Dist. Sultan Kudarat).

Such a reality could have been avoided if our farmers still had good reasons to go on planting and harvesting rice.  But the stark reality is that many land owners have already abandoned farming.

The other day, the Daily Guardian screamed this banner story: “Western Visayas palay output declines by 3.82%.”

To summarize that report based on statistics from the Philippines Statistics Authority (PSA), palay production in the region in the second quarter had fallen to an estimated 129,475.94 metric tons (MT), which is 5,142.82 MT less than 134,618.76 MT in the same quarter last year.

The total area harvested, 41,833.00 hectares, reflects a 7.51 percent decrease.

My heart bleeds for our Iloilo province, which had the highest decline in the region at 29.11%  with only 4,793 hectares harvested against 6,761 hectares in the same period last year.

In contrast only Capiz registered a minimal growth rate of 1.43% with 17,998 hectares harvested.

It is hard to accept because in the 1950s, Iloilo was the rice granary of Western Visayas, trailing behind Nueva Ecija which was, and still is, known as the rice granary of the Philippines.

What could have gone wrong?

At this juncture I remember a heated debate between Senators Raffy Tulfo and Cynthia Villar in November 2022 over the supposed conversion of agricultural lands into residential and commercial areas.

Lumiliit nang lumiliit po ang ating farmlands,” Tulfo said. “Binibili po ng malalaking developers at ginagawang commercial at residential lands.“

Feeling alluded to, Villar defensively said, “Alam ninyo, that’s our business. I want to tell you that we don’t buy agricultural lands in the provinces. Nobody will buy in agricultural lands. We only buy in cities and capital towns.”

Hmmmm, we Ilonggos find it hard to agree with her, knowing who are behind the subdivisions in Pavia, Iloilo which used to be either rice or tobacco farms.



WE received a number of favorable reactions to our previous column on MORE Power and Peak Power with regard fo the advancement of solar energy in Iloilo City. One of the most questions asked was whether it really pays to “solarize” in the long run.

As Peak Power’s head Joseph Teruel was telling me, a minimum of two solar panels on the rooftop could energize an air-conditioner (.5 hp), a TV set and a refrigerator for a minimum spend of ₱55,000, or ₱80,000 with rechargeable battery included. The package used to cost ₱300,000.

While solar energy could work during the day as long as the sun shines, it needs night-time support from either a battery or an alternative diesel- or gasoline-fire generator.

But with the advent of net-metering, a solar-powered home may also be connected to MORE Power or any other distribution utility. While the sun shines, it harnesses solar energy and automatically shifts to the grid at night. The peso value of solar energy consumed is deducted from the customer’s electric bill.

For some trivia, solar energy first came to the attention of Ilonggos in 1976 through businessman Robert “Panchito” Puckett who established the Solar Electric Company (SolarCo). He hired Teruel as national sales manager. They were into slow-moving solar vehicles at that time.

From Ma’am Aurora Alerta Lim, a retired official at the Central Philippine University (CPU), I learned that the school introduced the first solar street at CPU Gate 1 in 1989.