Quezon City – Anakpawis Party-list Representative Ariel Casilao today joined picket protest in front of the National Food Authority with rice watch group Bantay Bigas criticizing the complicity of the agency for continuing the push of further rice importation ostensibly instead buying more local rice production.
According to NFA spokesperson Rex Estopada, in an interview, there was an NFA supply rice crisis. Casilao said that this is definitely a big problem to poor Filipinos who only can afford NFA rice price compared to commercial rice which at present already spike prices up to P3 per kilo. If these continue, even the P32 NFA rice would probably also increase.
“The looming NFA rice crisis will affect majority of Filipinos who are dependent on the affordable price of NFA rice. Aside from this, other basic goods and services already started to increase because of the TRAIN law. The gov’t should immediately do something to mitigate the effect of NFA rice shortage”, Casilao added.
But Agriculture Sec. Manny Pińol claimed there still 3 million metric Tons (MMT) NFA rice while Estopeda said that there’s 1 mllion MT rice buffer stock. With this supply, there’s no need for the Palace to order the importation of 250,000 (MT) of rice. Thus, the lawmaker urged the house leadership to investigate the issue is contradicted by DA and NFA claim.
The Anakpawis lawmaker blamed the Duterte gov’t for the continuing dependent to rice importation to maintain the rice buffer stock. In fact, the NFA procure local rice production less than 3% but its mandate prompting it to procure 10% of local rice production. Aside from this, the government should look into possible involvement of unscrupulous rice traders for holding rice supply to force commercial rice price to increase as this is not a new racket in cahoots with corrupt NFA officials.
Also, Casilao lamented that the NFA budget, P7 billion for 2018, will be spent more on imported rice than procurement of local palay. The NFA spokesperson admitted that they are dissuaded to procure higher local rice products because it cost more per kilo. Thus, the lawmaker raised that gov’t. subsidy to rice production is of utmost significance to cut costs.
Anakpawis is planning to re-file the Rice Industry Development Act (RIDA) bill, a proposed measure ostensibly to help strengthen the local production and agricultural development to attain national food security. It aims to stop dependence on importation of rice to beef up the local supply. ###