DSWD: Low supply of NFA rice will not affect Mayon relief ops

MANILA, Philippines – The low supply of affordable National Food Authority (NFA) rice will not hamper relief operations in the areas affected by the Mayon volcano eruption, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said on Monday, February 12.

DSWD OIC Secretary Emmanuel Leyco said the department uses NFA rice for family food packs distributed to those affected by disasters.

"DSWD uses NFA rice for the family food packs which the agency distributes to families affected by calamities. So far, the department has stocks of NFA rice that will last until the first week of March," said Leyco.

Should there be shortage of NFA rice, Leyco said the DSWD will consider purchasing commercial rice, subject to government procurement rules.

"In case there will be a shortage of NFA rice, the Department will explore purchasing commercial rice. As an institution mandated to quickly implement relief operations in times of disaster, our paramount concern is to ensure that ample family food packs are available for distribution to displaced families," he said.

To be able to purchase from commercial sellers, NFA will first have to provide a certificate stating its inability to supply the rice requirements of the DSWD.

Alert Level 4 remains in effect over Mayon volcano. In its latest situation report, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Center said a total of 15,091 families or 56,517 persons are inside evacuation centers as of 8 pm on Sunday, February 11. 

Meanwhile, some 3,113 families or 12,876 persons are staying with their relatives and friends in the towns of Camalig, Daraga, Guinobatan, Malilipot, and Santo Domingo in Albay province.

NFA Administrator Jason Aquino earlier clarified there was no rice shortage in the country, but admitted that the NFA inventory was running low, with about 1.2 million bags enough for only 35 days.

The NFA Council approved on Monday the importation of 250,000 metric tons of rice, which will arrive in June, just after the harvest season, to replenish the government's buffer stock in case disaster happens.

Senator Cynthia Villar called for a probe into the supply of NFA rice, after it was confirmed that the agency had low stocks. (READ: Senate probe into rice shortage should unmask 'NFA syndicate' – Poe)

Agriculture groups condemned the importation of rice due to the reported shortage, saying that these stocks would likely arrive in time for the local harvest season and push down prices. – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.