Press Release
February 10, 2018

Sen. Kiko supports Senate probe into rice shortage

The consuming public needs to know why buffer stock for affordable government-distributed rice has gone down from the required 15 to 30 days to just a couple of days, Senator Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan said Saturday.

In a radio interview, Pangilinan, who used to head the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Food Security and Agricultural Modernization (OPAFSAM), said he supports the call of Senator Cynthia Villar for a Senate investigation into the reported rice shortage.

"Ang pagkakaintindi ko, the current chairman, si Senator Villar ng agri committee--'yun lang ang nabasa ko sa dyaryo, hindi ko pa siya nakakausap--she's going to look into this," he said.

"So we would like to encourage this para malaman natin: Number one, do we really have to import; and number two, ano 'yung sufficiency level; and number three, ang paliwanag sa atin (the explanation to us) is there is enough commercial rice but of course we would like to make sure that the inexpensive, affordable NFA rice is also present," he added, referring to the National Food Authority.

Pangilinan, who used to chair the NFA Council as OPAFSAM secretary, explained that government, through the NFA, is required to have a supply enough for 15 days during harvest season and 30 days during lean months.

Government needs to import rice, he explained, because Filipinos consume about 12 million tons of rice every year but produces only about 90 percent of that amount. This means that the Philippines needs to import about a million ton of rice, making it a major rice importer that's able to influence global rice prices.

"During our watch, we were able to reduce the cost to import rice by 120 dollars per metric ton on average and the data will bear us out. And we import a million metric tons...We were able to bring down government purchases of rice on my watch by as much as--well at least nung mga unang (first) purchase--mga (about) six billion [pesos] total," Pangilinan recalled.

That and other interventions, he said, brought the inflation rate down from 15-18 percent in 2014 to 0.8 percent the following year.

"It's a combination of managing your rice supply correctly, importing at the right time, huwag (not) during harvest season kasi makikipagkumpitensya ka sa (because you will compete with) farmers, making sure you import ahead. Ibig sabihin, bibilhin mo ngayon pero ipapa-deliver mo (Meaning, you buy for delivery) 5-6 months from now," Pangilinan said, detailing the strategy he adopted in rice importation.

At the same time, Pangilinan, who is a farmer advocating for higher incomes for farmers, noted that the Philippine culture has become so that it looks down on farmers.

"Masyadong mababa ang turing natin sa mga magsasaka kasi nga naghihirap, naghihikahos. In fact ang termino nga sa pinakamababang uri ng pagkatao sa ating bansa ay ano" hampaslupa. Pero ano ang ibig sabihin ng hampaslupa? Yung nagbubungkal. Bakit ang sama? (We have a poor regard for farmers because they are poor, in misery. In fact the term for the lowest class of people in our country is hampaslupa. But what does hampaslupa mean? It means toiling the soil. Why is that so bad?)

"Unlike Thailand for example, sabi nung former king: The backbone of the nation is the farmer. Sa China naman, sabi ni Confucius: The number one profession is the teacher,eh syempre teacher siya eh, because the teacher feeds the mind. The number two is the farmer because the farmer feeds the body. Tapos sabi niya, the number three is the businessman because he feeds [only] himself," he added.

Pangilinan said his daughter Frankie, when she was nine, gave a powerful insight on how highly farmers should be regarded.

"Sabi niya, we should treat our farmers like our parents because they're the ones who feed us," he said.

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