DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The National Federation of Peasant Women (Amihan) and rice watchdog Bantay Bigas emphasized that ‘political will’ is much more needed in solving the country’s rice crisis, calling the warning of President Rodrigo Duterte to raid rice warehouses, as ‘empty threats’.
“I will not allow Filipinos to go hungry. Do not force me to resort to emergency measures,” President Duterte said during its pre-departure press briefing at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport before leaving for his official visit to Israel and Jordan.
But, Bantay Bigas spokesperson Cathy Estavillo, in response, pointed out that no one was held accountable despite numerous times the Duterte administration warned against rice cartels in the country.
During his third State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July, President Duterte even warned to ‘hunt down’ rice cartels; but Estavillo said that nothing was done by the administration and the soaring price of rice in the market, and manipulation of the traders of the supply and price of rice continued.
“Kaya ang kawawa pa rin ang mga mamimili na nagtitiyagang pumila sa mga NFA outlet makakain lang ang kanilang mga pamilya (that’s why it is pitiable to see consumers who patiently queue to buy rice in NFA outlet/s, just to ensure that their family have something to eat),” Estavillo added.
While Amihan chairperson Zenaido Soriano also said there’s no need for the President to have “emergency powers” to resolve the rice crisis.
“Kailangan lang gawin ng mga ahensiya ng gobyerno ang kanilang mandato sa pagtitiyak ng supply at presyo ng bigas at panagutin kung sino man itong mga nagmamanipula sa supply at presyo ng bigas at ang mga taong nasa likod nila (Government agencies just have to perform their mandate in ensuring the supply and price of rice; and punish whoever is behind this manipulation),” she said.
The groups noted the Section 6 of the Presidential Decree 1485, which authorizes the National Food Authority(NFA) to “order the seizure, whenever there is cornering, or boarding, as may be defined by the Authority of rice and/or other grains and their substitutes and/or the by-products thereof, including facilities and equipments used in said cornering of hoarding, or whenever there is scarcity of supply of such commodity in the consumer market and/or an unwarranted increase in the price thereof, of the hoarded commodity and its public sale in such quantity as may be needed to stabilize the supply in the area of scarcity and restore prices to normal levels.”
Soriano said the rice cartel [in the Philippines] have persisted for a long time, proving that the government is doing nothing in resolving the problem.
She added that they have been calling for the strengthening of the local agriculture sector and increasing the rice production by first distributing the lands to the farmers and giving them direct services and support.
The group also demands P20 per kilo NFA buying price for palay produced by local farmers from its current price of P17 per kilo.
Amihan and Bantay Bigas stressed, “that the rice crisis is a result of the government’s dependence on importation and blind submission to the dictates of neoliberal financial institutions making the country import-dependent and export-oriented.” (davaotoday.com)