Effects of ‘flawed’ rice program felt by poor fishermenBy Delfin T. Mallari Jr. |Inquirer Southern Luzon
LUCENA CITY—Rising rice prices have reached Dalahican port here, putting a stop to the barter of fish for the cereal and illustrating the far-reaching effects of what critics of Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said was his flawed implementation of the government’s rice sufficiency program.
Fishermen at the port here used to barter some of their catch for rice. But with rising prices, rice dealers would accept no other payment but cash.
“The store owner in our neighborhood now prefers to sell rice than barter them with our fish. The price of rice is now too high so the profit is much bigger,” said Marela Isog, a fisherman’s wife.
At the ongoing hearing in the House of Representatives on rising rice prices and shortage of supply, Magdalo Representatives Gary Alejano and Francisco Ashley Acedillo appealed to President Aquino to put a leash on Alcala’s “flawed version of rice self-sufficiency.”
The two party-list legislators said it is time for the National Economic and Development Authority and the Department of Finance to step in.
Romeo Recide, assistant agriculture secretary and head of the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS), said the supply of rice would be at least 2 million metric tons short of Alcala’s announced target of 20 million MT at the end of the year.
“These numbers were not taken from thin air,” Acedillo said.
The House committees on food security and agriculture are conducting the investigation amid allegations of corruption in the Department of Agriculture (DA) and National Food Authority (NFA) in the importation of rice.
During the House hearing, NFA chief Orlan Calayag admitted that private sector importation has gone down to 3 percent of total imports from last year’s 78 percent. Importation by the NFA nearly doubled from 120,000 MT in 2012 to 205,700 MT this year.
In a statement on Wednesday, lawyer Argee Guevarra of Sanlakas chided Alcala for ignoring Recide’s presentation at the House hearing.
Guevarra said Alcala’s insistence on ignoring the information provided by his own agency’s data office showed that the agriculture chief “is more concerned with pleasing his boss, the President, rather than serving his real bosses, the Filipino people.”