By Robert B. Roque, Jr.
Suddenly, not so many are complaining, even if the prevailing price of onions in the market (P320 per kilo) is still over 300 percent higher than it was in 2019. The common sentiment is, “thankfully, it’s no longer P700 per kilo.”
Let’s not forget, though, that those who took advantage of the artificial shortage in onion supply three months before Christmas are now belting out a criminal laugh all the way to the bank. And they’re getting away with it.
Last week, Marikina City Rep. Stella Luz Quimbo elicited nothing but silence from the Department of Agriculture (DA) when she asked if there is an onion cartel in the country. Shouldn’t President Marcos, who insists on staying on as Agriculture chief, have an answer to that?
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In the six months of his presidency and leadership of the DA, we’ve seen blown-up prices of fish, chicken, eggs, sugar, onions, etc., and at rates nonproportionate to logical inflation.
Even political ally Sen. Cynthia Villar, who once said she could “live without onions,” came to her senses and questioned why none of these hoarders and price manipulators of various agricultural products have ever been imprisoned.
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Moving to make a difference, Sen. JV Ejercito has filed a bill seeking to widen the scope of the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act by imposing tougher penalties on hoarders, profiteers, and cartels of agricultural products.
Ejercito puts such offenses in a correct perspective, that is, economic sabotage. Hopefully, when this is made law, Villar and the rest of us will see these cartel monsters behind bars.
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On another issue, Ejercito’s call for a gradual phaseout of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) in the country does not make me rethink my original stand on the issue.
While I understand that pulling the plug on POGOs would leave 25,000 Filipinos instantly unemployed, the social and economic costs are far greater if we allow the industry’s existence.
The lure of corruption has rendered PAGCOR and other government agencies inutile in regulating POGOs as well as in their monitoring and taxation issues. These are aside from the crimes associated with the gambling industry.
Gradual phaseout means we just have to tolerate money laundering, kidnaping, bribery, prostitution, human and drug trafficking until POGOs are banned completely.
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