December 19, 2018 ( Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News )
MANILA - Malacañang on Wednesday vowed that the government would continue to make cheap rice available to Filipinos despite the impending signing of a law that would allow the liberalization of the rice industry.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles gave this assurance after Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said the National Food Authority (NFA) would no longer sell rice once the tariffication bill becomes law.
“The President will ensure that even with the tariffication of rice and liberalization of the industry, the NFA shall continue to provide the public, particularly the less fortunate, with rice that is affordable and safe,” Nograles said in a statement.
Nograles said once the law is passed, the NFA would be directed to buy palay from local farmers and, with the Department of Agriculture, focus on developing cost-efficient systems that would help reduce the production costs of locally-produced rice and stabilize prices.
Under the current setup, the NFA is tasked with stabilizing prices by buying grain from farmers and selling it at P27 and P32, cheaper compared to commercial rice.
The proposed Rice Tariffication Law, approved by Congress last November, will remove the NFA's power to import and distribute cheaper grain, said agency officer-in-charge Tomas Escarez.
The measure shall leave the agency with the sole task of buying grain from farmers to maintain buffer stocks for calamities and emergencies, he told radio DZMM.
Piñol, meanwhile, said if the implementing rules of the law would allow the NFA to sell rice, the grains agency will have to sell them at P33 to break even.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo also allayed concerns of rice prices going up once the law is passed.
“Kapag ni-liberalize mo naman eh magkakaroon ng competition in the market. So magpapababaan sila ng presyo, otherwise hindi sila mabibili, hindi ba? Kaya nga law of supply and demand iyan eh,” he said.
(Once you liberalize, there will be competition in the market. So they will compete by lowering their prices, otherwise consumers will not buy their products, right? That's why it's law of supply and demand.)