State of calamity in Zamboanga City until rice prices stable

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – Zamboanga City will remain under a state of calamity until rice prices are stable, a local official said.

Zamboanga City Vice Mayor Cesar Iturralde made the statement days after Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol declared the rice crisis here "over" with the opening of the Bigasan ng Masa (Rice for the Poor) in this city. 

"Yes, we are still in the state of calamity status as far as the issue of rice in the city is concerned, specifically for the purpose of monitoring of the price of rice," said Iturralde, chairman of the Zamboanga City Council.

Zamboanga City was placed under a state of calamity because of the rice shortage that drove up commercial rice prices to as much as P70 per kilo in remote villages.

The DA attributed the price increase in Zamboanga to reduced harvest in neighboring rice-producing towns, among other factors.

Under Republic Act 7581 or the Price Act, price of basic goods in calamity areas are automatically frozen at prevailing prices or placed under automatic price control.

The law states that: "If the prevailing price of any basic necessity is excessive or unreasonable, the implementing agency may recommend to the President the imposition of a price ceiling for the sale of the basic necessity at a price other than its prevailing price."

While Piñol had declared the rice crisis over on Friday, August 24, Zamboanga City Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco Salazar said the city would still be under a state of calamity for 60 days.

The city's newly-formed Rice Monitoring Team has been monitoring rice warehouses and rice prices in the market to check for violations.

The city government said in a post on it official Facebook page on Tuesday, August 28, that based on the City Agriculturist Office's monitoring, rice prices have gone down a little in the city's villages..

"We expect the prices to further reduce in the coming days as NFA (National Food Authority) and commercial rice stocks make their way to Zamboanga City," it added.

In his visit to Zamboanga City on Friday, Piñol proposed additional rice imports for the Zamboanga-Basilan-Sulu-Tawi-Tawi (Zambasulta) area due to sky-high prices.

Earlier, Isabela City in Basilan was placed under a state of calamity also because of a rice shortage.

Neighboring provinces such as Zamboanga Sibugay had contemplated making the same declaration but decided not to as its harvest season had begun. – Rappler.com