Agri chief denies rice crisis, vows to go after ‘saboteurs’
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the National Food Authority will name the parties behind the hoarding of rice will be named soon, but not while an investigation is still ongoing. She said the NFA is not keen on publicizing names at this time, lest those involved be tipped off.
MANILA, Sept 9 (Mabuhay) – There is no rice crisis.
This was the categorical statement from the government as it vows to go after “influential people” potentially involved in rice smuggling who are floating the rice shortage scenario, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said Monday.
In an interview after his agency’s budget hearing at the Senate, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala belied reports that the government will import more rice this year to address a supposed rice crisis.
“Hindi ko nga po alam kung saan nanggagaling ang kwento na magi-import na naman ng panibago ang bansa natin. Hindi po tayo magi-import. Wala pong crisis sa bigas,” he said.
During the hearing, National Food Authority (NFA) administrator Orlan Calayag said the country currently has a total rice buffer stock of 1.7 million metric tons, which he said is enough to last for 51 days.
“That’s even more than what we are required to keep,” Calayag said. “Wala po kaming nakikitang shortage in terms of production.”
The NFA chief added that some rice traders may be behind reports of rice shortage in an effort to hike up the prices of their remaining stocks ahead of the harvesting season.
“Ito po kasi ang kaunting window na natitira sa mga ilang negosyante na alam po nila na nag-uumpisa na ang anihan. Kapag dumating po ang main harvest, bababa na po ang presyo. Ang inventory po nila na natitira, gusto po nila maibenta ng mas mataas,” Calayag said.
Alcala, however, raised the possibility that rice smugglers may be behind this “economic sabotage.”
“Kitang kita na po na mayroon pong malalaking tao na involved dito, kung bakit po gusto nilang tumaas ang presyo. ‘Yung smuggling daig pa po niyan ang bagyo kapag tumama po sa ating bansa. Apektado po ang kabuhayan ng ating mga kababayan,” he said.
“Sila [rice smugglers] po ang nabukulan nito simula po nang higpitan ng NFA ang pagpasok ng bigas. Marami pong nagagalit. Ang hirap pong gumawa ng tuwid at tama,” he added.
Alcala added that his department’s legal team is currently investigating the rice situation in the country, and will file appropriate charges against the supposed saboteurs.
“Mayroon na po kaming mga legal team na maghahabol para dito sapagkat hindi po tama… Wala pong ibang pupuntahan ito kundi po para ipamukha na mayroon pong pagkukulang ng bigas,” he said.
The NFA had earlier accused some private traders of “hoarding the commercial inventory” as “part of a campaign designed to undermine the present administration.”
On Friday, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the government is already investigating alleged incidents of rice hoarding in the country. (MNS)
A worker passes a sack of rice to other workers inside a National Food Authority (NFA) warehouse in Taguig City, south of Manila March 26, 2012. The Philippines is close to signing a government-to-government rice supply agreement that would make Cambodia a potential supplier of the grain staple to Manila, along with Vietnam and Thailand, agriculture officials said on Monday. REUTERS/Cheryl Ravelo (PHILIPPINES – Tags: AGRICULTURE BUSINESS POLITICS)