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Wag paglaruan ang mahihirap! De Lima warns against politicizing rice importation

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The government’s plan to import rice amid the reported shortage of government-subsidized rice should be “free” from any political interference and based on credible data to avoid rice smuggling.

Detained Senator Leila de Lima stressed this on Tuesday as the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food conducted a public hearing into the alleged conflicting views of the National Food Authority (NFA) and Malacañang officials on the alleged rice shortage in the country.

“There is a need to clarify the conflicting positions of the Duterte administration on this matter, and to ascertain that government action is dictated by sound policy and based on reliable data in order to eliminate irregularities, such as rice smuggling,” she said in a statement.

De Lima filed on February 14 Senate Resolution No. 629 calling for a Senate inquiry into the reported shortage of NFA’s rice buffer stock which led to increase in the prices of commercial rice in the country.

She noted that in February 6 NFA Spokesperson Rebecca Olarte announced that the NFA’s buffer stock was down to two days’ worth–or roughly 64,000 metric tons (MT) at the end of January, its lowest level in 10 years.

Malacañang, on the other hand, refuted reports that there exists a rice shortage in the country as Secretary to the Cabinet Leoncio Evasco Jr. claimed that as much as 325,000 (MT) of the staple are being delivered to the country until the end of the month under the Minimum Access Volume (MAV) scheme.

De Lima expressed concern over a news report that the current government’s rice importation policy is embroiled in politics. She noted that Evasco, NFA Council chairman, “is inclined to let the private sector do the importation.”

She added, “The same report revealed that Special Assistant to the President Secretary Christopher ‘Bong’ Go is favoring the government-to-government importation scheme.”