MANILA, Philippines – Speaking in different occasions, both President Rodrigo Duterte and Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol assured on Monday that there is no rice shortage in the country.
In his speech before Filipinos in Israel, President Duterte dismissed claims of rice shortage as simply a political ploy. Hours after, Piñol made allegations that talks about a rice crisis are merely ‘speculations’.
“They are saying that there is a shortage of rice. But there’s a lot of rice, it even reached here, it is more than enough. You know those are politics,” the President said.
“The problem that we are facing right now is simply speculation. There is no shortage of food, there is no shortage of rice.” Piñol said, during a visit to the House of Representatives.
Piñol further elaborated that only the Zambasulta — or Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi — is currently experiencing shortage of rice, because Malaysian authorities launched a crackdown on rice smuggling.
“They have relied on smuggled rice for so long, but a month ago, Malaysian authorities closed the ports where the transshipment actually happens… when they closed it, they had no rice, causing the rice shortage,” the secretary claimed.
Previously, prices of rice in Zamboanga breached the P60-mark, forcing the local government to declare a state of calamity in the area.
According to Piñol, more than 30,000 tons of rice from the National Food Authority (NFA) are on its way to the Zambasulta area.
Several administration critics predicted a rice shortage after it was reported that more than 100,000 sacks of rice were affected with weevils. The National Food Authority (NFA) claimed that the sacks of rice, fumigated to remove the insects, will be still safe for consumption.
Despite these issues, Piñol said that he is not for the abolition of the NFA. However, he asked people to bear with the government, because they cannot avoid natural disasters which affect the supply of rice.
“People will have to understand that this is the nature of agriculture. There’s no way we can control the typhoons,” he said, likening agriculture to basketball.
Piñol said that that if a player cannot make a particular shot, then he has resort to something else.
“It’s like basketball, if you cannot make lay-ups, then you shoot from the outside. That’s how it is,” he explained, implying that government should adjust to the circumstances prevailing.