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Aquino urges gov’t to ensure imported NFA rice go to intended beneficiaries

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By Hannah Torregoza

Senator Paolo “Bam” Aquino IV on Tuesday urged the government to ensure that the imported rice the National Food Authority (NFA) had procured will go to its intended beneficiaries to guarantee a steady supply of affordable rice in the market.

Workers unload sacks of NFA rice at the NFA Warehouse in Visayas Ave, Quezon City, June 26 2018 as new buffer stock from Vietnam and Thailand arrives. The newly delivered rice will be distributed to selected markets in Metro Manila as the NFA vowed never to allow again the depletion of its buffer stock. They began to to distribute the low-priced, good quality NFA rice priced at P27 per kilo. (Mark Balmores)

Workers unload sacks of NFA rice at the NFA Warehouse in Visayas Ave, Quezon City, June 26 2018 as new buffer stock from Vietnam and Thailand arrive. (Mark Balmores/Manila Bulletin)

Aquino said he hopes that the beneficiaries would be given priority following the NFA’s promise of flooding the market with cheaper rice.

“Mahigit isang taon ding nalunod ang ating mga kababayan sa mahal na presyo ng bigas. Ngayon, tiyakin natin na tuluy-tuloy na ang supply ng murang bigas para gumaan naman ang kanilang kalagayan, (More than a year since our citizens bore the high cost of rice. Now, let’s make sure that there is a steady supply of affordable rice to ease their plight),” he said.

The government earlier said it expects prices of rice to drop with the arrival of the first tranche of imported rice. The rice, which has two varieties priced at P27 and P32 per kilo, will be distributed to provinces in Luzon and Mindanao.

Prices of commercial rice in the market rose to as much as P45 to P50 per kilo with the absence of NFA rice in the market since March last year.

In a Senate hearing, NFA administrator Jason Aquino admitted the agency failed to comply with the 15-day buffer stock policy for almost one year.

The senator said that due to NFA’s inefficiency, the prices of commercial rice increased and eventually forced Filipino families to spend more for their staple food.

“Bigas ang bumubuhay sa ating mga Pilipino araw-araw kaya kailangan itong pagtuunan ng pansin ng pamahalaan at tiyaking mayroong sapat na supply ng murang bigas sa merkado, (Rice is part of Filipinos everyday life that’s why the government needs to pay attention to this, and ensure that there is sufficient supply of cheaper rice in the markets),” he stressed.

But despite the arrival of imported NFA rice, the lawmaker maintained the NFA administrator should resign to avoid a repeat of last year’s debacle.

Aquino said he is worried that the imported NFA rice could only land in the hands of traders who would sell it for a higher price.

“Ngayong may dumating na bigas, baka maulit lang ang nangyari at mapunta na naman agad ang buffer stock sa kamay ng mga traders, (Now that there’s rice, we are worried that these buffer stock will just go to the hands of these traders),” he said.

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