By Cielito M. Reganit
MANILA — The Department of Agriculture (DA) said on Tuesday it has temporarily suspended the effectivity of the administrative order signalling the execution of the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of Republic Act No. 7581 or the Price Act, in relation to agricultural commodities.
Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said he issued the suspension order on Administrative Order 7, s. 2015, which was published last Sept. 2 in order to address several concerns raised by several private groups.
“The IRR is supposed to take effect 15 days from the publication date but it will be now deferred by the suspension order. This will afford stakeholders additional opportunity to raise their concerns on the IRR,” the DA chief said.
He said that a series of nationwide consultations will be conducted immediately after the publication of the suspension order.
These will be the second round of consultations as talks had already been conducted prior to the finalization of the IRR in the last quarter of 2014.
“My instructions for the next round of consultation activities are for it to be done separately by island region,” Alcala said.
In the meantime, DA Assistant Secretary for Agribusiness and Marketing Leandro Gazmin said the consultations will focus on contentious areas such as profiteering issues and mechanisms on setting suggested retail prices (SRPs).
“Other groups have also expressed apprehension that the IRR would be a sort of price control mechanism. We just consider it as SRP – a guide – and not a price freeze mechanism,” he said.
Gazmin clarified that under the IRR, whenever there are reports of profiteering – which happens when products are sold in excess of 10 percent of SRP – the DA shall issue a show cause directive that will provide the concerned business establishment an opportunity to explain their side.
“The purpose of the IRR is to ensure that due process is observed. All provisions of the published IRR are consistent with the Price Act. Moreover, the IRR could not be used as a price freezing mechanism since the only official who has the sole power to freeze prices is the President,” he said.
Under the IRR, the DA will create provincial-level or regional-level technical working groups, to be called Bantay-Presyo Working Group, as the mandatory body for SRP supervision.
“This is being done because we are veering away from a national-level scope in consideration of local conditions such as calamities. Supervision of SRP should be regional and location-specific,” Gazmin said. (PNA)
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