Marcos, a misfit in ‘agri’ post?

By Herbert Vego

WE have yet to hear a farmer praising President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. for appointing himself Secretary of Agriculture.  This is where he sounds Greek to us who doubt whether he has ever held a plow.

His decision to import 22,000 metric tons of onion does not make sense since it collides with the onion harvest season this month.

In his mind, importation is the solution to the rising prices of onion, which now costs more or less P700 per kilo, or almost triple its suggested retail price of P250.

We think otherwise.  While there is no assurance that it would benefit end users, the influx of imported onions would result in the fall of farmgate prices at the expense of local farmers.

There is no dearth of imported onions.  It’s the well-stocked hoarders and smugglers who create “scarcity” amid inflation in order to dictate higher prices.

But if you have been watching TV news, you must have lamented the sight of sacks of onions rotting in the remote onion farms of Cagayan Valley due to lack of wholesale buyers.

Former senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan believes that importers and smugglers buy red onions from Australia. There, the retail price of one kilo of red onions is equivalent to only around P110.

If he were concerned about the welfare of Filipino farmers and manufacturers, Marcos should have implemented “protectionism” as a government policy aimed at restricting international trade to help domestic industries within the domestic economy while implementing quality concerns.

As a high-school student in the early 1960S, I remember that the government of President Diosdado Macapagal financially supported the National Economic Protectionism Association (NEPA) – a local non-government organization – in its “Made in the Philippines” advocacy. NEPA boosted the sales of our shoes, slippers, abaca ropes, hats, old-fashioned native textiles and furniture in both the local and international markets.

In those days, wearing a pair of Ang Tibay (the most famous brand of Manila-made leather shoes) was a status symbol. It went “extinct” in the 1970s.

Oh, well, those were the days we had thought would never end.



HAS the Iloilo Electric Cooperative (ILECO) already filed a case against MORE Electric and Power Corp. (MORE Power) over the constitutionality of the law (Republic Act No. 11918) expanding the latter’s franchise to some areas already covered by ILECOs 1, 2 and 3?

The new law is an amendment to RA 11212, which granted MORE Power the distribution franchise for Iloilo City after the previous distribution utility, Panay Electric Co. (PECO) had failed to renew its franchise.

During a chance meeting in a coffee shop, I asked Ms. Maricel Pe – assistant vice-president for customer care of MORE Power – whether ILECO had questioned their expansion in a legal forum.

She had no idea about whatever case had been filed in whatever venue, hence could not elaborate.  All she said was that the law – as authored by Rep. Mike Gorriceta and former congressman Braeden John Biron — does not abolish ILECO’s franchise but merely allows MORE to compete in the municipalities in need of expanded distribution services.

I agree. Competition pushes firms to develop new ways of doing business and winning customers.

MORE Power’s proposed expansion would cover 15 towns and one city, namely Alimodian, Leganes, Leon, New Lucena, Pavia, San Miguel, Santa Barbara and Zarraga in the Second District; and Anilao, Banate, Barotac Nuevo, Dingle, Duenas, Dumangas and San Enrique and Passi City in the Fourth District.

The opposition of ILECO to the expansion hinges on the belief that it would be a violation of RA 9136 or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira).

All three ILECO branches had opposed the law during deliberations in the House of Representatives and the Senate but failed to convince the solons during the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte. The debates somehow delayed the bill’s Senate approval, resulting in its transmittal to Malacañang only on June 29, a day before Duterte’s term expired.

Since President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. failed to sign its approval, it automatically lapsed into law 30 days later on July 30, 2022. Based on the legislative process, if the President does not act on a proposed law submitted by Congress, it would lapse into law on day 30th.

Despite ILECO’s opposition to the expansion law, according to a news report written by Tara Yap for the Manila Bulletin, MORE Power’s President Roel Z. Castro “is open to discussions with the ILECOs on possible partnerships and collaboration for the benefit of consumers.”

Oo nga naman.