Press Release
August 25, 2023

DA 'BUNGLING LEADERSHIP' MAIN CAUSE OF SOARING RICE PRICES, CULPRITS WITHIN GOVERNMENT ITSELF

Senator Risa Hontiveros has attributed the soaring rice prices to the inept leadership at the Department of Agriculture and the National Food Authority, leading to "problematic policies" and to the country's present agricultural supply difficulties.

"Walang ibang dapat sisihin. Malacanang should not look for culprits elsewhere, as the main culprits are within the DA itself. There may or may not be hoarders and price manipulators; let's wait for the results of the investigations that the President ordered. What is clear is that the DA should acknowledge its central role in the alarming rise in rice prices," she said.

According to reports, rice prices have risen to around P56 per kilo. The DA blames the spike in prices entirely to factors outside of its control.

However, according to Hontiveros, the DA's meddling in the implementation of the Food Safety Act slowed down rice importation, resulting in low inventories.

Hontiveros said that it would seem that from June to December 2022, even with the then-looming supply shortage of rice due to higher fertilizer prices, no Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary Import Clearances (SPSICs) for rice were issued by the Bureau of Plant Industry. Likewise, the number and volume of SPSICs in the first quarter of 2023 were heavily clipped compared to the year before, and this was premeditated and announced by DA Senior Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban in December 2022. "Hindi tuloy napunan ang kulang na imbak para sana sa lean months," she said.

"Hindi dapat ginagamit ang SPSIC para pigilan ang imports bilang proteksyon sa rice farmers. Ito ay para lang mabantayan na walang sakit na pumapasok sa bansa. Wala akong kumpyansa sa pagmamarunong ng Senior Undersecretary ng DA o sa panukalang ang NFA uli ang maging importer," she said.

Hontiveros stated that Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban's imposition of his own judgment on the quantity and timing of rice importation worsened the situation.

Likewise, Hontiveros noted that the NFA was unable to procure enough stocks to satisfy the required reserves of nearly 500,000 metric tons for the lean months of July, August, and September. "Maraming dahilan ang NFA, gaya ng kakulangan sa maayos na warehouse, na hindi katanggap-tanggap."

"On both counts, the DA made matters worse than they needed to be. Again, hoarding and price manipulation are not even necessary to understand why prices have risen--if NFA, household, and institutional inventories are low, if the judgment of Undersecretary Panganiban erroneously superseded the intention of the Rice Tariffication Law, then it should surprise no one that prices are rising," Hontiveros said.

Hontiveros then called for the reassessment of the impact of the Rice Tariffication Law to determine if it is responsive to the current situation, in which both imports and local production are low and the NFA is not allowed to import rice.

Hontiveros previously filed Proposed Senate Resolution (PSR) 70 to evaluate the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL) and its effects, and PSR 152 to implement 'emergency measures' to help ameliorate the economic shock of farmers.

"Kailangang din magsumite ng evaluation report--kung kailangan na bang pansamantalang babaan ang taripa sa bigas para hindi mas mahal ang bigas na dati na nating inaangkat galing Vietnam at Thailand; kung epektibo ba ang paggamit ng kita mula sa tax sa imports para sa benepisyo ng ating magsasaka," Hontiveros said.

"Kailangan ding imbestigahan kung bakit hindi kaya o bakit ayaw ng NFA na magpundar ng buffer stock na pang-kontra sana sa hoarding at price manipulation, kahit kaya naman nilang mag-renta lang ng mga warehouses. Kailangang bantayan ang technical smuggling na nagiging dahilan kung bakit napapagkaitan ng pondo para sa binhi, makinarya at murang pautang ang ating mga magsasaka," the Senator concluded.

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