MANILA, Sept 1 (Aljazeera) - The Philippines has imposed a price cap on rice as the Southeast Asian country grapples with some of the highest inflation in the region.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr signed an executive order capping prices in light of the “considerable economic strain on Filipinos, particularly the underprivileged and marginalised”, the presidential office said on Friday.

Marcos Jr set the maximum price for regular milled rice and well-milled rice at 41 Philippine pesos ($0.72) per kilogramme and 45 pesos ($0.79) per kilogramme, respectively, his office said.

Marcos’s office said the “alarming” rise in retail prices stemmed from illegal price manipulation, “such as hoarding by opportunistic traders and collusion among industry cartels in light of the lean season”, as well as external factors, including the war in Ukraine, India’s ban on rice exports and volatile oil prices.

Marcos, who is also the agriculture minister, directed customs authorities to intensify inspections of rice warehouses to combat hoarding and illegal importation, and he ordered the competition watchdog to take action against cartels and merchants abusing their dominant market position.

The inflation rate for rice in the Philippines rose from 1 percent in January 2022 to 4.2 percent in July 2023, according to the National Economic and Development Authority.

The Philippines, where the top bottom 30 percent of earners spend nearly 60 percent of their income on food, has seen some of the steepest cost-of-living increases in Asia over the last year.

Overall inflation hit a 14-year high of 8.7 percent in January, before easing to 4.7 percent in July.