The Department of Agriculture (DA) on Friday denied all allegations on its supposed inaction and involvement in rice smuggling.
In a statement, DA Undersecretary Emerson Palad said that they strongly condemn rice smuggling and the people who engage in such illegal activity, which can be classified as economic sabotage.
“Any form of rice smuggling is bad for the economy, and bad for the Filipino rice farmers. Government loses the taxes or tariffs that should be paid for grain brought into the Philippines,” Palad said.
Smuggled rice also depresses the price of locally grown palay, he added.
The DA spokesman issued the statement following accusation by
Rep. Fernando Hicap of Anakpawis party-list that Agriculture
Secretary Proceso Alcala and National Food Authority (NFA) Administrator
Orlan Calayag knew of rice smuggling activities but did nothing to stop these.
Hicap said the traders who were issued import permits by the DA were the same people behind rice smuggling.
But Palad tagged Hicap’s statement as “false,” stressing that the Department of Agriculture has implemented programs consistently opposing illegal entry of farm products, particularly rice.
“From his assumption of office, Secretary Alcala has pursued the national goal of rice self-sufficiency. He has implemented programs to increase the productivity and incomes of small producers,” he added.
Palad also cited cases filed by the agency against individuals and groups, including erring NFA personnel, who were engaged in rice smuggling.
“We assure our people that the DA and NFA will continue to institute reforms to make the government’s rice importation and procurement program truly transparent and efficient, even as we remain committed to achieve the goal of producing the rice and other staples that we need,” Palad said.
“This is not an easy task, but we are determined to do what we need to do. We call on all concerned sectors to be our partner in fighting these economic saboteurs, to protect the interests of our farmers and our country,” he added.
To recall, Alcala issued an outstanding order for the confiscation of rice shipments that will enter the Philippines without the necessary government permit.
“It’s plain and simple, without permits, it is considered smuggled rice and should be confiscated,” Alcala said.
The DA chief also stressed that the NFA has sole authority to determine import and exports of staple grains.
He also warned that the government would not hesitate to file charges of economic sabotage against unscrupulous traders who will be found manipulating the current rice market situation.
Rice upload in hotspots
State-run NFA has infused more good quality and affordable rice to key markets to stabilize prices.
NFA Administrator Orlan Calayag said they have increased the volume of rice allocation for NFA-accredited retail outlets in the so-called hotspots in Manila, San Juan and Quezon City.
“From 25 bags, the grains agency will increase the allocation to 50 bags per day to boost the presence of affordable government rice, particularly in Kamuning, Frisco and Muñoz markets,” Calayag said.
For rice outlets outside markets, Calayag said that the NFA is increasing the allocation to 20 from 10 bags each.
“This is being done to augment the presence of cheap rice in the market so consumers will have access to the cheaper staple,” he said, assuring that there is enough rice stocks in the markets.
At present, NFA rice is being sold at P27 and P32 per kilograms, while prices of commercial rice were reported to have gone up.
As of today, the country’s total rice stocks stands at 7.5 million bags.
The NFA regularly conducts market-monitoring activities nationwide to ensure that good quality but affordable government rice is available especially for consumers with limited budget.
Earlier, the government said would not hesitate to file charges of economic sabotage against unscrupulous traders who will be found manipulating the current rice market situation.
Calayag said that rice traders, particularly those affected by the massive cut in imports, are currently engaged in a media campaign to disrupt efforts to cleanse and to effect true and meaningful reforms to make the agency more efficient and effective in complying with its twin mandate of ensuring food security and stabilizing the price of rice in the market.
The NFA has encouraged the public and NFA personnel to be vigilant for any unwarranted movements in rice supply and prices, as it warned from taking advantage of the current situation in the grains industry.
Calayag also encouraged the public to send any complaints, suggestions or inquiries via the Text NFA hotline number 0906-4363133.