Duterte rejects proposal to legalize rice smuggling to curb crisis
President Rodrigo Duterte said on Sunday he is not in favor with Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol’s proposal to legalize all transactions related to rice, including smuggling, in order to address the developing rice crisis in the Zamboanga City, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.
Duterte stressed that legalizing smuggling would result to disorder.
“No. Smuggling itself? No, of course not. It is destructive to the economy. We can lose but not allow rice smuggling in the country… that would promote disorder in this country,” Duterte said during his departure ceremony before he embarked on a back-to-back official state visit to Israel and Jordan at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) Terminal 2 in Pasay City.
The area currently suffering rice shortage was relying on rice smuggling—particularly from Malaysia, but was stopped after Duterte’s meeting with Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in July, Piñol earlier claimed.
“Kasi traditional sa kanila ‘yung umasa ng bigas sa kabila (It’s their tradition to rely on others for rice). So, sabi ko (I said), rather than allow smuggling, an illegal activity, to continue, we might as well legalize it,” Piñol said.
“So my proposal is for the establishment of a rice trading center in Tawi-Tawi, where government would now take full control. You come in, you bring in your rice, you pay a little tariff, never mind if it’s just a token, for as long as we’re able to control the volume of rice coming in,” he added.
The National Food Authority had received backlash due to its alleged incompetence in handling the rice crisis.
Several lawmakers have called for the resignation of NFA Administrator Jason Aquino over his alleged failure to curb the price of the staple in the market.
However, the President said he doesn’t see the need to fire people over the rice crisis in Zamboanga.
“Maybe the laws are weak or uncomfortable. All we have to is to improve those laws, not necessarily fire people… I don’t really see anything wrong there,” he said. /je
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