Filtered By: Money

Hontiveros: Econ managers must ‘rigorously justify’ raising rice buffer stocks

Senate Deputy Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday questioned the government’s plan to raise the stock of rice in National Food Authority warehouses, saying it should instead prepare social protection programs for Filipinos ahead of the El Niño season this year.

The lawmaker issued a statement following the National Economic Development Authority’s suggestion that the government immediately prepare buffer stocks of milled rice ahead of the dry season.

“Maybe the economic managers should more rigorously justify why raising the stock of rice in National Food Authority (NFA) warehouses makes more sense than other programs that could protect families that might experience loss of livelihoods and hunger. Dapat munang siguraduhin na may nakalaang ayuda sa mga mahihirap nating kababayan [It should first ensure that there is assistance for our compatriots],” Hontiveros said.

She recalled that during the El Niño season in 2016, NFA warehouses were filled with stock, but the Filipino people could not afford to buy rice.

“Kaya kung dadagdagan man ang bigas sa warehouses ng National Food Authority, mas mabuting sa lokal na producers. Tama ang NEDA na dapat para lang sa mga piling lokalidad ang prepositioning ng NFA rice stocks—yung mga isolated at maaaring makaranas ng shortage at pagsirit ng presyo,” she said.

(So if we are going to add to the rice in the NFA warehouses, better to source from local producers. NEDA is correct in saying that the prepositioning of NFA rice stocks should only be fore specific localities—the isolated ones that may experience shortage and price rises.)

With reports that there are already sanitary and phytosanitary clearances for more than 3 million metric tons of rice to be imported by the private sector and nearly one-third of the supply had already arrived, Hontiveros said this is already enough to fill the expected shortage in the country.

Further, Hontiveros said that local producers can prepare for this year’s harvest as the price of fertilizers has already gone down dramatically and the budgets for inputs and irrigation for the rice sector have been doubled this year.

GMA News Online has reached out to NEDA Secretary Arsenio Balisacan for comment. — BM, GMA Integrated News