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SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau

Speaker Romualdez meets key solons, BPI officials to plot additional moves to smash onion cartel; warns profiteers will face prosecution
23 May 2023 12:20:52 PM

Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez met with key lawmakers and officials of the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) late Monday afternoon to finalize their action plan and reforms meant to smash the cartel responsible for manipulating the supply and price of onion in the country.

At the same time, Speaker Romualdez warned that apart from the cartel and their cohorts, all other profiteers—including local traders and other players in the onion industry—who will continue to take advantage of the consumers will face certain prosecution.

“Those who are part of the solution we will help; those who are part of the problem, we will not tolerate. We will go after them and make the proper recommendation for prosecution,” Speaker Romualdez said.

It was Speaker Romualdez who called for a congressional probe in December last year when prices of onion surged to over P700 a kilo to address the issue and protect the consumers.

Among those present in the meeting at the Speaker’s Office were Quezon 1st District Rep. Mark Enverga, chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture and Food that spearheaded the probe on the onion issue, and Marikina 2nd District Rep. Stella Luz Quimbo, whose expose unmasked key cartel personalities and allied firms.

House Committee on Appropriations Chairman and Ako Bicol Party-list Rep. Zaldy Co as well as Rizal 1st District Rep. Michael John Duavit, also took part in the meeting, as well as BPI officials led by Director Gerald Glenn Panganiban.

Speaker Romualdez said President Ferdinand "Bongbong" R. Marcos, Jr., who is also the concurrent Secretary of the Department of Agriculture (DA), has expressed appreciation for the effort of the House to go against the onion cartel, particularly the expose of Quimbo.

“At least he knows that we are helping him as Secretary of Agriculture in stamping out these malpractices,” Speaker Romualdez said.

During the meeting, Dir. Panganiban committed to submit in writing to Speaker Romualdez within the week the policy reforms the BPI will adopt to prevent price manipulation of agricultural products, specifically onions.

Among these reforms, which were discussed during the congressional probe on onion, include the following: opening up onion importation to prevent certain traders from cornering supply, frontloading aid to farmers to encourage production, the possibility of suspending importation during harvest season and review of existing tariff rates on imported onions to protect local farmers.

Speaker Romualdez stressed the need to increase onion production in the country to reduce dependence on imports.

According to Panganiban, the BPI is exploring various avenues for this purpose, including the use of idle lands of the Bureau of Corrections for onion production.

Co also suggested the use of technology such as fertigation—delivery of fertilizers through irrigation--to increase production.

For his part, Duavit is working with Speaker Romualdez to draft a measure using an innovative farming concept that would not only increase agricultural production but also provide assured benefits to small land owners, particularly the Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries (ARB). (END)