Press Release
March 10, 2008


Senator Chiz Escudero today said the government should not dismiss reports of rice shortage in Bicol but should instead provide interventions to mitigate the situation as residents of the said disaster-stricken province begin to complain of inadequate supply of rice and of the abrupt soaring of prices wherever rice is available.

Reports from the Albay province said government rice from National Food Authority (NFA) is getting scarce in public markets and while supply is made erratically available, price has gone up from the prevailing market price of P18-25 per kilo to as high as P28-30 per kilo. This price is already beyond the means of families who are earning less than a dollar a day.

Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal also confirmed receiving reports that there is indeed rice shortage in the Bicol Region. Albay Governor Joey Salceda also warned the local executives of price spikes and urged them to allocate social services funds to counter this and increase food production in their localities.

Escudero said these circumstances should already be addressed before complains turn to panic among the residents of the region.

"Rice is a sensitive matter cutting across all sectors of the society as it is the major daily staple of every Filipino family. Rice security spells food security for every Filipino, if you take that away from them, you starve millions of them."

To address the issue, Escudero urged the government especially the National Food Security to beef up its stocking mechanism in the Bicol province to ensure better supply of rice in six months to one year so that when circumstances like these happen, the commodity can be made readily available to the consumers".

Escudero added that the NFA should have a better forecasting mechanism of the supply situation in disaster prone areas like Bicol to prepare contingency measures, this way, he said, consumers are not only ensured of a stabilized price but also of adequate supply.

"The NFA has a policy to maintain a 90-day buffer stock in its warehouses. If this is being implemented all over the country, I don't understand why Bicol is running out of supply. Even if NFA says that supply is immediately depleted because of the successive disasters that hit the place, then they should strengthen their stocking system in concerned areas like Bicol".

Areas of concern are already identified by the National Disaster Coordinating Council and even private entities like the Red Cross that targeting these as special concern areas of NFA for stocking is easy. "We already know what areas are always hit by natural calamities and even those areas where people are displaced by armed conflicts. These places always need the protection of the NFA and the government as a whole in terms of food security in times of disasters and crisis".

The senator said the rice shortage in Bicol could also happen in other parts of the country if the government will continue to ignore the concerns of the residents. "It is bad enough that the government has yet to address the soaring price of rice, but it is worse when supply it cannot provide adequate supply of this basic and important commodity".

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