Gov’t urged to make sure cheap NFA rice reaches intended beneficiaries

MANILA -- As the National Food Authority (NFA) starts distributing affordable rice in the market, two opposition senators on Tuesday urged concerned authorities to implement proper actions to ensure that the imported rice reaches its intended beneficiaries.

The NFA has imported 250,000 metric tons of rice from Vietnam and Thailand to replenish its buffer stocks and distribute to public markets across the country.

Initial shipments have begun arriving in the country in the first week of June but inclement weather has delayed its distribution.

Meanwhile, further shipments are expected to arrive until August this year.

With the arrival in the market of rice imported by the NFA, government should ensure that affordable rice reach the intended areas for the benefit of the low-income sector, Senator Francis Pangilinan said in a statement.

Besides keeping a close watch over the distribution stage, Pangilinan said the government should also be on the lookout against unscrupulous traders who take advantage of the price and quality of the imported rice to make more profits.

The imported rice is of two varieties and sold by the NFA at PHP27 and PHP32 per kilogram.

In contrast, commercial rice of comparable qualities cost between PHP42 to as high as PHP51 per kilogram.

Authorities should also be on guard against possible illegal diversion and repacking of rice to be sold to the commercial market at higher prices. The quantity of the imported grains has certainly made hoarders and profiteers on the lookout anew for their illegal activities, Pangilinan said.

Repacking of NFA rice to be sold as commercial rice has been a persistent bane to government efforts to maintain a steady supply of affordable rice in the market.

The opposition lawmaker condemned the illegal business practice, saying such manipulation of rice stocks results in "lack of supply, higher prices, and hungry Filipinos.

However, Pangilinan said the prospect of hoarding and illegal repacking of NFA rice could be proactively nipped in the bud by seeking the help of the Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of Investigation to raid and inspect rice warehouses.

Instead of going after the 'tambays,' the PNP would have better use for its force by guarding the Filipino's staple food to make sure that they are available in the market at prices affordable to ordinary Filipinos, Pangilinan said.

Pangilinan's sentiments were echoed by Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV.

Aquino urged that besides ensuring that cheap rice reaches its intended destinations, government should also ensure the supply of affordable rice in the market to prevent the unnecessary increase in the price of rice.

He noted that prices of commercial rice soared with the absence of NFA rice in the market since March of last year.

"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 (Our countrymen have drowned from the high price of rice for more than a year. Now, we must ensure a steady supply of cheap rice in order to ease their situations)," the lawmaker said.

Rice is the daily staple of Filipinos. Thus, government should pay close attention to it and ensure that there is an ample supply of affordable rice in the market, he added. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency