MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang on Thursday, February 8, said there’s no need to authorize the National Food Authority (NFA) to import 250,000 metric tons of rice because about 325,000 metric tons of rice will arrive this month.
According to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, Cabinet Secretary and NFA Council Chairperson Leoncio Evasco Jr confirmed that the NFA was given standby authority to import 250,000 metric tons of rice.
“He says the reason why they have not actually resorted to importation is that under the minimum access volume, we’re expecting 325,000 metric tons of rice to arrive within the month. So why should we import?” Roque said in a press briefing on Thursday.
He added: “So the point is, there’s already rice on its way, no need to authorize the standby order of 250,000 [metric tons] because there’s more than enough rice on its way to beef up the NFA stock.”
On Wednesday, February 7, NFA Administrator Jason Aquino had clarified there is no rice shortage in the Philippines.
He admitted, however, that their inventory of NFA rice is running low, and their total inventory of about 1.2 million bags will last for only 35 days, given the distribution rate of 34,000 bags daily.
Aquino is looking at the importation of rice as another mode of replenishing their buffer stock, but the NFA Council has not yet approved the importation of 250,000 metric tons of rice.
Aquino had been at odds with Evasco and the rest of the council over which mode of importation government should go for.
On Thursday, Roque said he “cannot take the position of anyone else” but his fellow Cabinet members.
“If he [Evasco] sees that there are rumblings because somebody wants to make money, so be it, but I’m happy that Cab Sec Evasco is on top of the situation. He enjoys full trust and confidence of the President, that’s why until now the President has not commented on this issue because he trusts that Sec Evasco will do what is best,” Roque explained.
Asked if the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) would discipline those hiking the price of rice in the market, Roque said markets react to supply and demand.
“Pero ‘pag dumating na po ‘yung 325,000 metric tons, sigurado po naman bababa ang presyo ng bigas dahil napakalaking volume po ‘yan,” he added.
(But once the 325,000 metric tons of rice arrive, the price of rice will definitely go down because that’s a huge volume.)
According to the NFA, it had to “judiciously allocate” its remaining stocks of rice, giving priority to calamity victims, depressed areas, and island provinces and municipalities.
The NFA is required to keep a 15-day buffer stock at any given time, and a 30-day buffer stock by July 1 or the start of the lean months. – Rappler.com