With Zamboanga City now under a state of calamity due to the shortage of rice, House Committee on Agriculture chair and ANAC-IP Rep. Jose Panganiban, Jr. called on the National Food Authority (NFA) to investigate and implement necessary measures to prevent similar crises in other parts of the country.
Panganiban said the NFA “should be proactive” and come up with a list of other local governments facing rice shortages and address the problems accordingly so that “rice prices remain within reasonable, affordable levels.”
“It’s important that we get to the bottom of the issue, given the conflicting statements of the local government and DA regarding the causes.”
“Wag na nilang hintayin na pumalo pa ng 50, 60 pesos per kilo ang bigas; if they see rice prices in an area begin to rise at rates faster and higher than the national average, the NFA should look into it and, if possible, increase the stocks of NFA rice in the area to stabilize prices,” said the solon.
Panganiban also prodded the NFA and the Department of Agriculture (DA) to investigate the reasons behind the Zamboanga rice price surge so that policy-makers are guided moving forward.
“It’s important that we get to the bottom of the issue, given the conflicting statements of the local government and DA regarding the causes behind the extraordinary spike in rice prices,” explained Panganiban.
Zamboanga City Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco-Salazar said that the rice shortage was due to a lack of supply of neighboring towns and cities.
“There is so much demand all over our neighbors that is why the supply that is coming into Zamboanga and should be shipped to Zamboanga is being redirected,” the mayor said in an interview.
On the other hand, Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol said that Zamboanga’s rice supply dwindled after smuggling from Malaysia was stopped.
The DA chief added that because rice imported from Malaysia was cheaper, Zamboanga had not developed its local rice industry.
Panganiban said that unless the real reason for the rice shortage was pinpointed, the problem would not be comprehensively addressed and prevented.
“The NFA should look into it and, if possible, increase the stocks of NFA rice in the area to stabilize prices.”
“Our people need to be assured that government is up to the task of solving the perennial issues faced by the rice industry, anywhere in the country,” Panganiban stressed.
He also said that the situation faced by Zamboanga underscores the need for all local governments to focus on ensuring agricultural productivity and institutionalizing their own local food security programs.