SEN. Maria Josefa Imelda “Imee” Marcos rejected on Friday the reported plan of the Philippine International Trading Corp. (PITC) to import rice on behalf of local fast food chains, grocery stores and small supermarkets.
The lawmaker expressed dismay that a government-owned corporation under the Department of Trade and Industry would prioritize imports over local produce when farmers have been selling their harvested rice at depressed prices, or even at a loss.
“The announcement of [Trade] Secretary [Ramon] Lopez is insensitive and ill-timed. Cheaper imported rice is not worth a breakdown in the livelihood of Filipino rice farmers,” Marcos said.
Lopez announced the plan to import rice for select businesses at an international rice conference in Makati City earlier this week. He also said that as many as 300 containers could be shipped to the country in the next few months.
“Where is our conscience and what got into the heads of these businessmen who choose foreign goods over our very own at a time of crisis?” Marcos asked.
Voting 21-0-0, the Senate on November 4 approved on third reading Joint Resolution 8 authorizing the government to directly purchase palay from local farmers for its rice subsidy program.
A joint resolution requires the approval of both chambers of Congress. Once signed by the President, it becomes law. It is most commonly used for emergency appropriations.
The resolution directs concerned government agencies to purchase rice for the 4.1 million beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program from local farmers.
It instructs the departments of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the Interior and Local Government, National Defense, Transportation, Environment and Natural Resources, and local government units, in coordination with the National Food Authority (NFA), to buy from local farmers for the government’s rice subsidy program.
It mandates the DSWD, in coordination with the NFA, to buy palay from local farmers from provinces with an oversupply of rice — Pangasinan, Ilocos Norte, Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Mindoro Oriental, Mindoro Occidental, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Zamboanga del Sur and Iloilo — and distribute the rice subsidy in the form of actual rice, instead of cash assistance to qualified beneficiaries.