DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 6 Sept) – The government will set aside a total of 2.7 million sacks of rice to Zamboanga Peninsula and the provinces of Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) amid the reported rice shortages and price increases in basic commodities.
A joint statement of the government’s economic development cluster emailed on September 5 said that at least 4.6 million sacks of rice stored in the warehouses of the National Food Authority (NFA) would be immediately released while another 2 million sacks previously contracted would be delivered by end of this month.
The NFA Council has also authorized the importation of 10 million sacks of rice. An initial 5 million sacks will arrive in the country over the next one and a half months while the other half early next year.
Some 12.6 million metric tons of rice or equivalent to 252 million sacks are expected to boost the rice supply as harvest in many parts of the country has already started, the statement read.
The economic cluster consisting of the Department of Finance (DOF), the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the Department of Agriculture (DA), the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), the Bureau of the Treasury (BTr), and some members of the NFA Council convened on September 5 to counter increasing food prices.
It added that the economic managers would recommend to President Rodrigo R. Duterte the “issuance of a directive to further simplify and streamline the licensing procedures for rice imports of the NFA” and urged the Senate to immediately pass the Rice Tariffication Bill within the month.
The economic cluster has also recommended the creation of a monitoring team consisting of the National Bureau of Investigation, police, DTI, NFA, and farmer groups for surveillance of rice from ports to NFA warehouses and retail outlets.
The country’s inflation rate soared to 6.4% in August 2018, surpassing the 5.7% recorded in July, driven by increases in electricity, gas, fuels, fish, rice, personal transport, vegetables, and meat.
In Mindanao, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has the inflation rate at 8.1%; Zamboanga Peninsula, 6.4%; Northern Mindanao, 6.1%; Davao Region, 7.1%; Soccsksargen, 7.9%; and Caraga, 4.8%.
To counter the increasing food prices, the economic cluster has pushed to pursue agricultural reforms to resolve the supply issues. It maintained that “a committed effort from government in the agriculture sector to boost supply of key products and introduce policy reforms will bring down prices for all Filipino families.”
“This is supported by the lowest regional inflation rate recorded in the food-abundant and agriculturally-productive Region III (Central Luzon) at 3.6 percent,” it added.
Also, the DA committed to replicate the issuance of certificates of necessity to allow imports to be distributed in the wet markets in the country and work with DTI to convene poultry producers and setup public markets where producers can directly sell to consumers to reduce the gap between the farm gate and retail prices.
Among other things dicussed by the economic cluster included the opening of importation of sugar to direct users by the Sugar Regulatory Administration and prioritization of the release of essential fooditems in the ports by the Bureau of Customs.
The economic team blamed on seasonal weather conditions the increases in the prices of vegetables and that they expect a relief after the typhoon season. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)