Press Release
August 30, 2019

Massively expand sale of cheap rice; get LGUs, DSWD to buy NFA rice and distribute to poor families or sell at lower price: Kiko
'Food situation is in emergency, govt should be in emergency mode'

MANILA -- With 4 million bags of rice in warehouses of the National Food Authority (NFA), the government should expand the sale of cheap rice all over the country, said Sen. Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan Friday.

"Emergency food situation tayo ngayon: ang ating magpapalay hirap sa murang presyo ng kanilang ani, ang mga consumers hirap din sa mahal na presyo ng kanilang pagkain. Kailangan nasa emergency mode din ang ating gobyerno (We are in an emergency situation: our rice farmers are suffering due to low prices of their harvest, consumers are suffering due to high prices of their food. Our government should also be in emergency mode)," said the former secretary on food security.

"Mas maiging palawakin ang pagbenta ng murang bigas. Bilhin na ng LGUs at DSWD sa NFA ang mga nakaimbak na bigas para ipamahagi sa mahihirap na pamilya o ibenta sa mas mababang halaga (It would be better to expand the sale of cheap rice. Get local government units or the Department of Social Welfare and Development to buy the NFA stored rice and distribute to poor families or sell at lower prices)," he added.

Once the current NFA stocks are unloaded, this will allow the government to buy local rice, Pangilinan said.

"This will also replenish our buffer stock with fresh stock. Pag na-unload yung present stocks through massive selling, tapatan din ng massive buying from local farmers (Once the present stocks are unloaded through massive selling, match this too with massive buying from local farmers)," Pangilinan said.

In Wednesday's hearing of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, NFA Administrator Judy Dansal revealed that 4 million bags of rice equivalent to about 290,000 metric tons (MT) are currently stored in NFA warehouses. The administrator also said that government has imported 1.2 million MT of rice this year, with 290,000 MT remaining unsold.

On reports that these rice stocks are rotting, Pangilinan said experts should examine the condition of the rice. "Depende sa makita, pwede namang gilingin ulit (Depending on the findings, the stock can still be re-milled)," Pangilinan said.

During his stint as Presidential Assistant on Food Security and Agricultural Modernization (OPAFSAM) and concurrent chairman of the NFA Council from May 2014 to October 2015, rice prices remained stable even during a bad drought-causing El Niño.

"Ang kailangang gawin ng NFA ay massive rice selling in all possible places na maraming mahihirap. Palawakin ang pagbenta ng murang bigas. Gawing accessible at available ang NFA rice nationwide (What NFA needs to do is massive rice selling in all possible places where the poor abound. Expand the selling of cheap rice. Make NFA rice accessible and available nationwide)," Pangilinan said.

Farmers have raised the alarm of plummeting palay prices, with traders buying for only P7-P10 a kilo when they used to sell at P21 per kilo. The Philippine Statistics Authority confirms the fall in the average farm-gate prices of palay, reporting a drop from P22.28 to P17.62 per kilo during the same period last year.

"Pakinggan at tulungan natin ang mga magsasaka. Unang-una, hindi tamang gutom ang nagpapakain sa atin. Pangalawa, pag gutom ang mga nagpapakain sa atin, magugutom din tayo (Let's listen to our farmers and help them. First of all, it is wrong that those who feed us go hungry. Second, when those who feed us go hungry, we will also go hungry)," Pangilinan said.

Pangilinan earlier delivered a privilege speech enumerating the effects of the Rice Tariffication Law on rice farmers in particular and the rice industry as a whole. He proposed a number of solutions to address these ill effects, including emergency direct cash assistance for farmers.

The Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food will resume its hearing on Tuesday, September 3.

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