Swift action vs rice woes

September 15, 2019

When persuasive methods won’t do the job, sometimes coercive action is justified and made urgent.

And so from legislative suggestion, senators are shifting to more resolute methods of prompting government action on a patently pressing problem requiring urgent attention.

This is precisely why Congress was set up in the first place – to express the people’s outrage over either the slowness or arbitrariness of certain government action as the situation demands.

Indeed, executive timidity is not an acceptable behavior in public service.

Consider the crisis in domestic rice trade, arising from crashing prices of  rice in retail markets and palay at the farm gates.

A joint resolution, urging government agencies to use a total allocation of P37 billion for the rice subsidy program to buy rice from local farmers, had to be filed at the Senate to protect them from the recent liberalization of rice importation.

Sen. Imee Marcos filed Senate Joint Resolution 4, which urges the Departments of Social Welfare and Development, Interior and Local Government, National Defense, Transportation, and Environment and Natural Resources, in coordination with the National Food Authority ) and the Department of Agriculture, to directly buy palay (unhusked rice) from local farmers.

"Despite the efforts made by the government to protect the local rice industry, large stocks of imported rice have depressed the buying price of local palay to levels way below the cost production," Marcos said in the resolution.

She said the government can use the allocation of PP33.9 billion for rice subsidies in the 2019 General Appropriations Act, the largest of which is given to the beneficiaries of the DSWD under the "Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program.

The lady lawmaker added that the remaining allocations of P2.89 billion for the rice subsidy programs of military uniformed personnel, such as the provision of 20 kilos of rice per month, in the form of financial assistance, to the uniformed personnel of the Army, Air Force, Navy,  Coast Guard, National Police, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, and the Bureau of Fire Protection can also be utilized.

She also noted that President Duterte has ordered the NFA to expend their budget of P7 billion for procuring palay from local farmers to provide immediate support and assistance to the local rice industry.

She stressed the need to give assistance to two million farmers suffering due to the drop in farm gate prices of palay after nearly four million bags of rice flooded the Philippine markets.

"The NFA should immediately increase the buying price for palay and start purchasing it from local farmers. Our fear is that we might be flooded with local rice once harvest season starts next week)," Marcos said.

Agriculture Sec. William Dar promptly ordered the NFA  to bring down rice prices to P27 per kilo by flooding Metro Manila markets with 3.6 million bags of the food staple.

Dar also directed the agency to increase palay support price to P19 from P17 per kilo.

"The NFA Council met and there are a number of big developments in relation to palay procurement and price of rice in the market,” he said during the press conference. .

The DA chief said the NFAC decided for the NFA "to flood Metro Manila markets and other key cities nationwide with imported NFA rice."