Press Release
April 16, 2008



Senator Mar Roxas called on the executive to provide clear solutions to address the insufficient domestic production of rice, rather than be focused merely on political considerations which do not provide any real help to the people.

"The government is on the wrong track in adopting the tingi approach to our rice problem. This is a production and supply problem, and so, we must address its root causes and not just the symptoms. Ang problema natin, kulang ang bigas, kaya dapat ang focus natin ay sa pag-siguro na na may sapat na ani," he said.

"The government's response is politically influenced. I see summits and lots of photo-ops, but I don't see substantive programs. It's unfortunate that the government activities are a-la-police--the NBI will raid, the military will distribute--but I have not seen much in how we can produce more rice," he added.

Roxas also warned the administration not to issue rice access cards unless there is a competent system in place and clear guidelines to be followed by local officials and the National Food Authority, to avoid confusion and politicizing the process.

"If we have a rice rationing system, politicians will now say 'yung mga kakampi ko, magkaka-bigas.' Whenever there is shortage or rationing, you now introduce the element of subjective choice, or who-gets-what. Mahirap iyan," he said, explaining that this could lead to more confusion and could trigger food riots and demonstrations.

"Instead, I recommend an expansion of the Food-for-Work program where poor families are harnessed to help in their communities, in exchange for a stable supply of food," the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Trade added.

The Liberal Party President said to ensure plentiful domestic harvest, he proposed:

  1. All conversions of irrigated land should be stopped, and investigate how much has the government spent on irrigation for these converted lands;

  2. Ensure that all of the inputs necessary--seeds, fertilizer, pesticides, among others--must be made available to farmers;

  3. Consider the development of 'small water impounding' irrigation systems, which costs only about P30,000 per hectare, versus large-scale irrigation through dams which costs P100,000 per hectare.

  4. Open up the Agusan and Lanao marsh areas for planting, as these are ideal for planting rice, similar to the Vietnamese river delta basin;

  5. Invest in eliminating wastage in the drying of rice, estimated at 30% of annual consumption, and more than enough to cover the NFA's importation of 2 million MT of rice or 17% of annual consumption.

He noted that aside from the planned issuance of rice vouchers, the administration had already floated a hodge-podge of stopgap solutions, including:

  1. Limiting how much NFA rice an individual may buy;

  2. Using of indelible ink to discourage returning buyers;

  3. Calling on consumers to eat brown rice;

  4. Calling on fast-food chains to offer half-cup rice;

  5. Linking up with Churches and LGUs, and even deputizing soldiers, to help in distributing cheaper varieties of NFA rice;

  6. Threats of raids on warehouses even if there are no clear guidelines yet.

He noted that the government has embarked or at least floated these solutions, even as it denies that a rice supply crisis does not exist.

"Kaya nga dapat magpakatotoo ang gobyerno at aminin ang problema sa sambayanan para sama-sama tayong lahat sa paghanap ng pinakamagandang paraan at solusyon sa krisis na ito," he added.

The senator noted that rice-exporting countries have already announced its plans to curb medium-grade rice exports to protect their own respective domestic supplies.

"This makes our call for an emergency ASEAN Leaders' Summit on the rice crisis even more urgent. We can then appeal to our rice exporting neighbors to give priority to fellow ASEAN members in the allocation of exported rice," Roxas said.

"Now, the surplus is gone, the old standby--'never mind, we can always import'--is no longer available. This is not just a slogan of 'food security,' we must now produce our own rice," he said.

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