Monitor Lenten prices, DA urged

A child sits in a motorized vehicle loaded with vegetables at a public market in Manila, Philippines, Oct. 21, 2022. — REUTERS/LISA MARIE DAVID

PRICES of basic commodities, especially fish and vegetables, should be guarded against unwarranted increases during the Holy Week, a congressman urged the Department of Agriculture (DA) on Monday.

Party-list Rep. Wilbert T. Lee also called on the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to set suggested retail prices for basic goods to prevent price gouging in the culminating week of the Lenten season.

“While it is natural for the retail prices of vegetables and fish to go up during the Holy Week, the DA and DTI should still closely monitor its prices,” Mr. Lee said in mixed English and Filipino in a statement.

Last week, the DA reported that it expects a spike in retail prices for fish and vegetables — the preferred food of Catholics who would be observing abstinence from pork and other meat products.

Fish products are expected to increase by 10% to 20%, DA Assistant Secretary Arnel V. de Mesa said in a public briefing last Friday even if he assured a sufficient supply in the market throughout the Holy Week. 

Commenting on DA’s statement, Mr. Lee said that “price increases should not be so significant” despite increased demand for the last week of Lent.

According to DA’s Bantay Presyo program, the average retail prices for a kilo of Bangus (milk fish), Tilapia, local and imported Galunggong in the National Capital Region (NCR) last week stood at P192.61, P141.33, P222.66, and P193.33, respectively.

While the DA’s Bantay Presyo initiative was set to cover the 17 regions of the country — the program only provides complete and updated data to the National Capital Region (NCR).

“As for now, the DA only monitors Metro Manila prices. We hope that this program will be extended to provinces and other regions so that other people not from the NCR can also benefit from price monitoring,” Mr. Lee said in Filipino. — Kenneth Christiane L. Basilio