By Raymund Antonio
Vice President Leni Robredo has repeated her call for the national government to take immediate steps that will address concerns on rice supply and price hike.
This, after Robredo found herself at the receiving end of complaints from the urban poor over the high prices of rice being sold in the local market.
The Vice President recently went to Baseco, Manila for a consultation with retailers and consumers at Corazon Aquino Public Market, where she was told about the lack of National Food Authority (NFA) rice supply.
An advocate of the poor, she also visited Barangay 649 for a meeting with the leaders of Kabalikat sa Kaunlaran ng Baseco and the Urban Poor Associates. Joining her was Senator Bam Aquino.
When she spoke with retailers, they noted they haven’t been able to sell rice from the NFA for several months now.
At their dialogue, the groups’ leaders raised concerns over the spike in rice prices with low-grade rice currently selling between P40 to P42 per kilo.
“Mahalaga [ang pag-uusap na] ito dahil alam namin na kapag tumaas ang presyo ng bigas, iyong mahihirap iyong unang tinatamaan, kasi iyon talaga iyong una nating binibili. (This [discussion] is important because we all know once the prices of rice increase, the poor is the first to be affected because that is the first product we buy),” she told the urban poor leaders.
The Vice President described the effects of the issue on the poor as “heartbreaking,” urging the NFA leadership to come together to address the long- standing problem arising from the dwindling NFA rice supply.
“Iyong sinasabi nila, ‘Kung dati kumakain kami ng tatlong beses isang araw, baka ngayon isa na lang. (They were saying, If before they were eating three times a day, but now it could only be once a day),’” she said.
“Hanggang hindi sila [NFA leadership] nag-aayos at hanggang hindi sila nagkakasundo kung anong gagawin, iyong mahihirap talaga iyong apektado (As long as they don’t get along and agree on what to do, the poor is really affected),” she added.
Robredo’s dialogue with the urban poor was part of a series of consultations being conducted by her office in order to craft a proposal on how to address the rice problem.
Just last week, the Vice President was in Pili Public Market in Camarines Sur for the same undertaking.
Her office has also gathered representatives from farmer groups to hear their concerns on the issue, notably the lack of support for small farmers.