MANILA - President Rodrgio Duterte on Monday warned traders against attempting to manipulate rice prices through hoarding.
During his third State of the Nation Address, Duterte said the government is releasing P149 billion in social aid this year to help the poor cope with the rising prices of basic goods, but that "no amount of subsidy can help the poor if some businesses take advantage of their situation to make more money."
"To help stabilize rice prices, we also have to address the issue of artificial rice shortage. I now ask all the rice hoarders, cartels and their protectors: You know that I know who you are. Stop messing with the people," he said.
"Power sometimes is not good thing. I hope I will not have to use it against you. Consider yourselves warned, mend your ways now or the full force of the state shall be put to bear upon you," the President added.
He directed intelligence agencies to unmask those engaging in economic sabotage.
He also urged Congress to prioritize a proposed law that seeks to impose tariffs on rice in place of import quotas, saying this can bring down the price of the staple by as much as P7 per kilo, slowing inflation "significantly."
Duterte said he certified the measure as urgent on Monday.
The Philippines is a frequent buyer of rice mainly from Vietnam and Thailand, usually importing more than 1 million tons of the grain every year to meet domestic demand and maintain stockpiles.
-- With a report from Reuters