High rice prices hurt the poorest Filipinos most

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BECAUSE many officials of the Aquino administration are incompetent, negligent and guilty of corruption, the prices of the most basic commodities and household and personal needs have shot up during the four years that the son of the sainted late President Corazon Aquino and the martyred former senator Benigno Aquino has been the Philippine president and chief executive officer.

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The prices of jeepney rides, the per kilowatt hour of electricity, liquid petroleum gas, candles, school supplies and food products—vegetables, eggs, chicken, pork, beef, canned goods, noodles in cups or in plastic bags, cooking oil, mongo beans, dried fish, and so on and so forth—are now beyond the reach of millions of our countrymen.

The most devastating price increase, one that makes the lower middle class and the poorest Filipinos suffer, is that of the price of rice.

Since President Aquino became our No. 1 National Leader, the prices of regular milled rice have gone north by at least 20 percent. Rice prices have steadily increased since the start of the year.

Since mid-year last year, rice prices have increased by an average of 1.2 percent per month as compared to less than a tenth of a percent (0.04 percent) for the same period a year before. Today’s prices of regular milled rice are 30 percent more than 2010 prices.

The typhoons and heavy rains will again destroy a goodly amount of our rice crops in some of the provinces. Then the expected onset of the El Niño phenomenon will reduce the amount of rainfall in most parts of our country.

When El Niño hit us more than 10 years ago, Western Luzon, Western Visayas, Northern Samar, and the southern part of Western Mindanao had rainfall that was less than 40 percent of normal rainfall. In that period, according to estimates of the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS), there was a decrease of 7.5 percent in agricultural growth. Rice and corn production dropped by almost 24.1 percent and 26.6 percent, respectively. Some 292,000 hectares of Philippine corn and rice farmlands were destroyed.

About 70 percent of the Philippines suffered from severe drought and there was a water supply crisis. Some 27,000 hectares of rice and corn paddies were severely damaged. An estimated 100,000 million metric tons of rice were lost and 15,000 farmer households suffered immense poverty and hardships.

That extent of damage is predicted to happen again in this El Niño cycle. And there is not much that can be done by the Aquino administration’s government agencies that should have prepared for the El Niño—but did not.

If suddenly the Agriculture Department officials will do what they have failed to do these last four years, the damage could still be mitigated.

Ronald Garcia, agricultural engineer at AGHAM—Advocates of Science and Technology for the People —thinks that “a strategic irrigation action plan” can help. But we think it will be a miracle if the present DA officials can put up such a strategic action plan.

What should really be aimed for is food security through domestic production. But the Aquino administration has also failed in that.

Instead it has relied on imported rice to fill our population’s needs.

But the Aquino government people in charge even mucked around even such a simple thing as importation. They ended up making rice sales to our country the most expensive in the whole world. And that made the rice available in our markets as expensive as it is now. But that of course made the rice importers happy. Perhaps some officials also benefited corruptly in the process,

Again this is a sign of the Aquino administration’s incompetence and lack of patriotism and concern for the Filipino people.

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1 Comment

  1. Primer Pagunuran on

    As readers who simply follow the train of thought of the person who wrote this condemning article of PNoy’s incompetence to control the price of rice and other basic commodities, one can feel obliged to comment that apparently, the problem being cried about carries with it the solution to that problem, or at least an explanation on why rice price has scaled up and why government has to import rice for its buffer stock. In short, government imports to insure the desired level of buffer stock in rice as a means to a food security since local production cannot produce it given the long history of drought and natural calamity. From where I sit, I think we just have to be carefully precise about our analysis. Neither will building irrigation dams be a solution over the short term given that they cost billions of pesos.