TABACO CITY, Albay: It had been a 10 a.m. habit for tricycle operator Telesforo Begil to rush to the market for a P27 kilo of National Food Authority (NFA) rice for the family lunch. In afternoon, he would buy another kilo of NFA rice for the evening meal. He has kept to that habit for almost two decades.
Any excess of the two-kilogram rice he buys for the family consumption—he has a wife and three children—would be for the next day’s breakfast.
He had not seen since Friday any NFA rice in the market. He had to cough up a few more pesos for commercial rice, which retails at P30 per kilo.
By Sunday, NFA rice was still missing at the Tabaco City market, which is just beside the city hall. Allan Borlagdan, a laborer said he could not also find NFA rice in the market on Sunday and Monday.
Despite the missing NFA rice, NFA officials insist there is sufficient NFA rice supply, which retails at P27 a kilo.
Begil is one among the more than 5,000 padyak operators who depend every day on the cheapest NFA rice.
He said with the estimated 5,000 padyaks in the city eking out P40 a day, Begil said he could hardly make a gross daily income of P180. He said his family is trying to subsist on the P27 per kilo of NFA rice daily.
Begil said NFA rice is their lifeline—an increase in its price would be a disaster.
The Begil family said buying commercial rice is a luxury to them hoping the government would not increase the NFA current price tag at P27 a kilo—that remains to be seen.
Mayor Marie Demetriou cannot be contacted for comment but her administrative officer retired Police Supt. Elizir Bron said the missing NFA rice in the market is being investigated and monitored by the police. In Legazpi City, Mayor Noel Rosal said he has ordered strict monitoring of NFA rice supply warning rice traders against creating an artificial shortage.
In Camarines Sur, NFA provincial director Edna de Guzman said there is no shortage of NFA rice in the market. She urged consumers to report to her office NFA retailers and traders who would report they have no NFA rice. De Guzman said NFA rice remains pegged at P27 a kilo whose quality is equivalent to the commercial type sold at P36 a kilo.