MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang said President Rodrigo Duterte will meet with big rice traders on Thursday afternoon, April 5, after the National Food Authority (NFA) sounded the alarm over its depleted rice buffer stock.
"The President will be meeting with big rice traders tomorrow afternoon because the president will have a take on that," said Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr, chair of the NFA Council, in a press conference on Wednesday, April 4.
Evasco said that through this meeting with Duterte, Malacañang "can ask these traders to help us rather than take advantage of the situation to make money at the expense of the consuming public."
Asked if the NFA is creating an "artificial shortage," Evasco said that their statement on dwindling rice supplies "would eventually make the traders withdraw the rice, to speculate on higher prices of rice in a few weeks from now."
Evasco also reiterated that the government is considering to abolish the NFA "if we have enough rice produced in our country to feed our people."
Asked if the NFA is claiming a rice shortage to avoid abolition, Evasco said, "Ikaw ang nagsabi niyan." (It was you who said that.)
The NFA management, led by administrator Jason Aquino, is putting pressure on the NFA Council to speed up rice importation because of the dwindling NFA reserve.
Malacañang, however, said the current NFA rice shortage should not be cause for panic since NFA rice comprises only a small portion of the total rice supply of the country. – with reports from Pia Ranada / Rappler.com
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.