By Hannah L. Torregoza
Senator Cynthia Villar, who chairs the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, will push through with her probe into the apparent failure of the National Food Authority (NFA) to keep a buffer stock of cheap rice even as she reiterated that there is no rice shortage in the country.
“Wala po tayong shortage sa bigas. Ang may shortage po, NFA (rice). Kasi ang NFA mandated po iyan na bumili ng 15 days buffer stock either sa mga farmers natin o mag-import (We don’t have a rice shortage. We have a shortage of NFA rice. Because the NFA is mandated to buy 15 days buffer stock either for our farmers or for import),” Villar said in a Radio DZBB interview.
She said that while there is sufficient supply of rice, the NFA had allegedly failed to keep a buffer stock of cheaply priced rice.
“They (NFA) have failed to do it so sila ang may problema. Pero ang bigas po sa Pilipinas ay walang shortage dahil bago po tayong ani (They are the ones who have a problem. But there is no shortage of rice in the Philippines because there is a new harvest),” Villar said.
She said the Senate will conduct hearings on the status of NFA rice supply on February 27. The probe, she said, will center on the low buffer stock of NFA rice and the agency’s role in keeping rice prices stable.
Villar pointed out NFA’s problem on buffer stock also happened last year, saying the agency should have gone to provinces where farmers offer rice at a lower cost and not in Central Luzon where a cost of rice per kilo is a lot higher.
“Sinasabi nila hindi daw sila makabili sa local kasi ang mandate nila hanggang P17 pesos per kilo. Sabi ko, maghanap sila ng probinsya na mura ang bigas. Marami naman pong probinsya na mura ang bigas (They said they cannot buy local because their mandate is to buy rice that’s P17 per kilo),” he said.
“Huwag silang bumili dito sa Central Luzon dahil diyan talaga pong maraming traders diyan na bumibili nang mahal ang mga bigas. Pumunta sila doon sa Antique, Bicol, sa Palawan, doon mura lang ang bigas, below P17 (They should not go to Central Luzon because there are many traders there who buy expensive rice. They should go to Antique, Bicol, Palawan, the price of rice there is below P17),” she pointed out.
The Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) has required the NFA to maintain a 15-day buffer stock at any given time and 30 days at the onset of the lean months of July to September.
“Sila (NFA) ang may problema, hindi iyong supply ng ating bigas (They are the ones who have a problem, not our rice supply),” she stressed.
“Kaya nga po maghi-hearing tayo dito para tanungin natin sila once and for all. At the same time kailangan din natin silang makausap kasi we will be transitioning from quantitative restriction on rice to tariffication,” she said.