By Genalyn Kabiling
The government is prepared to lose P2 billion to purchase all the rice produce of local farmers in a bid to improve their plight, President Duterte said Thursday night.
The President said they can make the farmers “happy” once the agriculture department embarks on domestic palay procurement even though the government will be on the losing end.
“Ngayon, kung mas mahal ‘yung kanilang presyo binili ni Dar, ‘di nalugi. Nalugi ang gobyerno kasi bumili
ng mahal. So? Lugi tayo. Magkano? Siguro mga two billion. O ‘di lugi [Now if their rice price costs more, then (Agriculture Secretary William) Dar will buy them. The government incurs losses from buying the rice. So? We lose. How much? Maybe P2 billion. So be it],” he said during his visit to an elderly wellness center in Taguig City Thursday.
“Ang mga producers napaligaya natin at nagpalugi lahat. Ang binayaran na lang natin ‘yung lugi natin. ‘Yun lang. Tutal pera naman ng tao ‘yan. ‘Di bilihin mo lahat [At least we will make the producers happy even though we lost money. We paid for our loss. That’s it. Besides, those are public funds so buy them all],” he added.
The President earlier ordered the suspension of rice importation during harvest time, saying authorities should prioritize the rice purchase from farmers first. He issued the directive to help farmers reeling from the record low prices of unhusked rice following the implementation of the rice tarrification law.
Duterte, however, frowned at proposals to halt the rice tarrification law, citing the need to shore up supply since local production won’t be enough for the country’s growing population.
But a day after the President’s announcement, DA Secretary Dar clarified that the government would impose more stringent measures for importing rice.
He said the President also authorized an increase in the government’s rice buffer stock to 30 days from 15 days as well as distribution of unconditional cash transfers to farmers.
The President explained he authorized the procurement of the local farmers’ harvest to avoid trouble.
Duterte said he wanted the agriculture department to fill the warehouses with rice to boost supply rather than let the nation face a shortage and make the people go hungry.
“Sabi ko, ‘yung produce nito, ano ang na-harvest ninyo, sabi ko parang walang gulo, sabi ko kay Dar, ‘Bilihin mo lahat’ [I said to avoid trouble, I told Dar to buy all the produce, all the harvest],” he said.
“Kung mataas ang presyo kaysa imported rice, huwag na bale, bilihin mo. Pataasan mo doon sa imported rice. Ngayon, kunin mo lahat. Ilagay mo sa bodega natin. Ang mangyari magsobra-sobra ating bigas [Even if it costs more than imported rice, never mind, just buy them. Now, put them in our warehouses. What will happen is we will have an excess of rice],” he said.
He said having a rice surplus would not pose a problem since people will eventually eat them.
“So what’s the problem? Kainin man rin ‘yan. ‘Di unahin ‘yung old stock. Tutal 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Kumakain tayo lahat [So what’s the problem? Those will be eaten anyway, starting with the old stock. We all eat rice 24 hours a day, 365 days a year],” he said.
On the funding requirement, Duterte left it to Congress to find ways to bankroll the local rice acquisition program to ease the farmers’ woes.
“Wala akong pera. Ah bahala na si Cayetano diyan mag-imprenta sila ng kwarta. Speaker sila. Gumawa sila ng papel diyan..‘Yan ang malasakit [I don’t have any money. It’s up to (Speaker Alan) Cayetano to print money, he’s the Speaker. They should make money. That’s what you call compassion],” he said.