House probe sought on surge in onion prices

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 5) — The Makabayan bloc of the House of Representatives has filed a resolution to investigate the potential price manipulation and overpricing of onions, which recently sold for up to ₱800 per kilogram.

“There are reasons to believe that there is an ongoing control and manipulation of onion prices from farmgate to market retail by big traders who store onions in cold storage warehouses,” read House Resolution No. 673, which was released to the media on Thursday.

It was filed a day prior by Gabriela Women's Party Rep. Arlene Brosas, ACT Teachers Partylist Rep. France Castro, and Kabataan Partylist Rep. Raoul Manuel.

The lawmakers pointed out that the prices of local onions have surpassed the highest daily minimum wage in the country which is ₱570.

In its last price monitoring for 2022, the Department of Agriculture on Dec. 30 said that local red onions cost ₱550 to ₱700 per kilo in Metro Manila markets, while local white onions cost ₱600 to ₱800.

As of Jan. 5, local red onions were priced at ₱280 to ₱650 per kilo, while local white onions were pegged at ₱400 to ₱600.

According to the Makabayan bloc, the numbers are far from the farmgate per-kilo price of the commodity in mid-November 2022, which was just ₱25 to ₱27.

“Such huge discrepancy indicates potential price manipulation which makes onions more expensive," the lawmakers said. "Aside from that, smuggling and over-importation of onions remain major problems, which also severely affect local supply and prices."

Over the past weeks, authorities have confiscated smuggled onions valued at tens of millions of pesos. Citing a claim by farmers' group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, the Makabayan bloc said only 10% of contraband onions are caught by the DA and the Bureau of Customs, while 90% are sold at high prices in markets.

It added that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who is also Agriculture secretary, is “directly accountable for failing to address the problem of onion price spike” and must be compelled to stop traders and smugglers from profiteering from the situation.

Last month, presidential sister Senator Imee Marcos filed a resolution seeking a Senate investigation into the soaring prices of onions in the market.