SouthCot Diocese prepares schemes for rice distribution

Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez said Thursday that the Diocese of Marbel is set to acquire a license from the NFA to allow diocesan parishes and affiliated offices to sell the cheaper NFA rice to residents.

The diocese's move came after the Department of Agriculture sought the help of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines in selling the NFA rice through the networks of its social action arm National Secretariat for Social Action-Justice and Peace (NASSA) to help ease the rising prices of the commercial rice.  

Gutierrez said the scheme already started in selected parishes in Metro Manila but cited that they want it to first shape up properly before adopting it in the area.

The selected parishes were initially given a seed money of at least P15,000 and an allocation of 20 cavans of NFA rice, which were sold at P18.25 per kilo.

"The initial result is not quite encouraging. There were very long queues and the supply seemed not enough. But we're closely watching the developments there and we're giving it at least a month to perfect," he said in a radio interview.

On Wednesday, he said CBCP-NASSA Executive Secretary Sr. Rosanne Mallillin, who was tapped by the CBCP to coordinate the implementation of the program, personally visited the diocese in preparation for its launching in the area.

Gutierrez said he has tapped Fr. Romeo Catedral, the diocese's director for social action, to secure a license from the NFA for the entire diocese.

The Diocese of Marbel covers the provinces of South Cotabato and Sarangani and the cities of Koronadal and General Santos.

The bishop said the NFA will deliver the allocation directly to Fr. Catedral's office or the designated warehouse and the latter will be managing the distribution and selling of the NFA rice to the parishes.

Gutierrez said Fr. Catedral initially gave reservations to the scheme due to previous complaints from local residents regarding the quality of the NFA rice.

But he said local NFA officials assured him that they would be selling "quality, cheap rice."

"We will not be selling any bad smelling and chemical-laden NFA rice. Our consumers will get quality rice at P18.25 a kilo," Gutierrez assured.

Gutierrez said they are hoping that the scheme will help offset the rising prices of commercial rice, which went up to as high as P37 a kilo since last month.
"Our prospect here is quite good because the area still has enough rice supplies but we also have to contend with these greedy rice traders," he said.

Gutierrez added that they are currently coordinating with local governments in the area to make sure that the program will serve as much poor families as possible.(Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)