The AGRI Party-list has lauded Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol for committing to resolve the Zamboanga rice crisis amid a barrage of criticism from various sectors over the perceived failure by government to prevent an escalation of rice prices in the region.
The National Food Authority (NFA) Council on Wednesday decided to import 132,000 metric tons (MT) of rice under the unutilized Minimum Access Volume (MAV) allocation as part of the efforts to address the crisis in Zamboanga and the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi (Zambasulta).
Piñol said the first 32,000 MT would be delivered in 15 to 20 days, and the said supply would be good for two months.
What’s more important presently is to make sure that the price of rice in the Zambasulta area goes down immediately.”
“We are glad to know that some people are choosing to solve the Zamboanga crisis rather than engaging in useless finger pointing,” AGRI Party-list Secretary General Benjie Martinez said.
“What’s more important presently is to make sure that the price of rice in the Zambasulta area goes down immediately, and that there is rice to feed the people,” he added.
Martinez said that as soon as the supply and price of rice are stabilized, the NFA and NFA Council, along with the Department of Agriculture and other agencies, should focus on addressing smuggling and agricultural productivity.
About 200,000 metric tons or four million sacks of rice from Vietnam and Thailand are being shipped by smugglers in Zamboanga City, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi (Zambasulta) every year, according to DA estimates.
Piñol said smuggling in the said area has resulted in a loss of P2 billion in revenues.
“As soon as the supply and price of rice are stabilized, the NFA and NFA Council, along with the Department of Agriculture and other agencies, should focus on addressing smuggling.”
As government steps up its efforts to curb smuggling, measures should also be taken to improve local agriculture to prevent a repeat of the Zamboanga situation, Martinez said.
“Zamboanga’s experience should serve as a stark reminder for us all of the importance of vibrant local agriculture. This is a sector that must be revitalized, one that would benefit greatly from additional government support,” Martinez added.