Audrei Jeremy A. Mendador

With rice prices reaching new heights, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Chief Alfredo Pascual suggested that Filipinos consider modifying their diets or seeking rice alternatives to cope with the escalating cost of the staple food.

Photo Courtesy of Unsplash/Kapihan sa Manila Bay with Marichu Villanueva/Facebook

In an interview at the Kapihan sa Manila Bay on August 16, Pascual discussed adapting to changing circumstances and referred to a study conducted by the University of the Philippines (UP) that examined potential rice alternatives.

“Adapt then adjust our, maybe, our diet,” Pascual said. “But there are other alternatives. Pwede naman kamote, pwede namang corn.”

However, Pascual clarified his stance, emphasizing that he was not advocating for an immediate shift to rice substitutes. Rather, he was merely recalling an experiment on rice-corn mix conducted by UP during his term as president, which proposed the idea of using alternative options to rice. 

“We tested the nutritional value, the taste acceptability. And it was a pass. I talked to [the Department of Agriculture] at the time and they agreed na we should promote it. Of course for us in UP, although we can suggest we cannot implement,” Pascual explained.

Meanwhile, Bantay Bigas Spokesperson Cathy Estavillo has fired back at the DTI chief’s suggestion to adjust diets and explore alternatives such as sweet potato and white corn.

“Sabihin niya ‘yan sa mga manggagawa at magsasaka na batak na batak ang katawan sa trabaho. Wala na silang ida-diet pa,” Estavillo stressed.

Estavillo further argued against the practicality of sweet potatoes as a rice substitute due to their higher costs. 

“Kaya nga dapat ay magpatupad ng price control para maampatan ang tuloy-tuloy na pagtaas ng presyo. Gawin dapat ng DTI ang trabaho nito para matiyak na walang hoarding, price manipulation at overpricing,” she recommended.

Addressing inflation concerns during his second State of the Nation Address, President and Department of Agriculture Secretary Ferdinand Marcos Jr. highlighted the progress made in lowering the prices of various commodities.

“Sa mga nakalipas na buwan, nakita natin ang pagbaba ng presyo ng bilihin sa iba’t ibang mga sektor. Napatunayan natin na kayang maipababa ang presyo ng bigas, karne, isda, gulay, at asukal,” Marcos affirmed.

Throughout his campaign, the president consistently pledged to lower the cost of rice to ₱20 per kilo. Nonetheless, recent price monitoring conducted by the Department of Agriculture reveals that well-milled local commercial rice is currently retailed from ₱40 to ₱52, whereas regular milled local commercial rice is priced between ₱38 to ₱50.

Edited by Khezyll Galvan