Palace assures ‘sufficient’ NFA rice supply

MANILA Despite low stock of National Food Authority (NFA) rice, Malacanang on Tuesday had assured the public that the country's rice supply is "more than sufficient".

Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra made this assurance amid media reports that some areas in Luzon, including the National Capital Region, have been experiencing NFA rice shortage.

We all know that there is indeed low NFA stock, but the overall rice supply is more than sufficient with plenty to spare. No need to panic, Guevarra said in a text message.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte attended a special NFA council meeting on March 19 where the procurement process for the importation of 250,000 metric tons of rice was agreed upon, in a bid to boost the NFA buffer stock.

Deputy Executive Director of the Office of the Cabinet Secretary Jonas Soriano said the imported rice will arrive next month.

Guevarra said there is no reason to rush the importation of 250,000 metric tons of rice as there was no rice shortage of NFA rice.

He said the government will continue to monitor rice traders to prevent price manipulation.

An unusual rise in price despite more than adequate supplies could only be the result of manipulation, Guevarra said.

For his part, Soriano said the NFA council is puzzled over the declining NFA reserve, adding that it should not lead to rice price hike.

The reason why a special meeting together the President was held on March 19 was because it's a big question for everyone including the council why we are running out of NFA rice, Soriano said in a phone-patch interview with Palace reporters Tuesday.

Soriano said one of the solutions to solve the decreasing NFA rice supply is to pursue an independent audit by the Commission on Audit to look into operations of the NFA since Duterte assumed office in 2016.

He said there is a need to establish the patterns behind the problem so that we can craft policies to make sure that people are protected and the farmers are also protected.

It is important that we improve on how (NFA) management procures rice. There are directives that procurement should be corrected, he said.

Soriano said the procurement process should not be tainted with corruption and should follow international bidding standards.

We'll make sure that rice would be available, even the NFA rice, Soriano said.

Source: Philippine News Agency