Solon thanks Vietnam for rice supply but says PH must be self-sufficient
MANILA, Philippines — While securing Vietnam’s assurance of supplying rice to the Philippines was a good move amid a possible rice price hike and supply shortage, a lawmaker believes that the national government must start focusing on self-sufficiency.
Agri party-list Rep. Wilbert Lee on Friday thanked Vietnam for their kind gesture but reminded President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s administration that the Philippines cannot be over-dependent on importation since it has no control over other countries’ exportation policies.
“While we thank Vietnam for the assurance that there will be a steady supply of rice to the Philippines, the export policies of other nations are beyond our control and we cannot predict when these will change,” Lee said.
“Isang halimbawa nito ang desisyon ng India noong nakaraang buwan na itigil ang pag-export ng bigas (One example is India’s decision last month to stop exporting rice),” he added.
According to Lee, it is possible to solve the issue through legislation, like what was done with the New Agrarian Emancipation Act signed by the President last July 7.
“As such, the best solution to shield ourselves from unpredictable export policies is for us to ensure our farmers are fully supported by our laws, programs, and policies to be able to plant and harvest rice, katulad ng (like the) New Agrarian Emancipation Act na nilagdaan ni Pangulong Bongbong Marcos bilang batas nitong nakaraang buwan lamang (that was signed into law by the President last month),” he said.
“Kailangan nating tulungan ang ating mga magsasaka na magkaroon ng kakayahan na makapagtanim at masiguro na mayroon silang aanihin para magkaroon tayo ng sapat na supply ng bigas. Kapag nangyari ito, magiging Winner Tayo Lahat,” he added.
(We need to help our farmers to have the capability to grow crops and ensure that they would have a good yield — so that we would have a sufficient supply of rice. If this happens, we all will win.)
Lee’s statement came days after House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez confirmed last August 7 that he was able to secure Vietnam’s commitment to continue supplying the Philippines with affordable rice.
This happened on the eve of the 44th Asean Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA) general assembly in Jakarta, Indonesia, when Romualdez talked with the National Assembly of Vietnam chairman Vuong Dinh Hue.
Several lawmakers including the House committee on agriculture and food chairperson and Quezon 1st District Rep. Wilfrido Mark Enverga lauded Romualdez, saying that securing Vietnam’s commitment was crucial.
Even Romualdez acknowledged the importance of Vietnam’s assurance since India’s rice export ban — coupled with the possible effects of the recent typhoons and an El Niño season — may lead to rice shortage in the Philippines.
As early as April 2023, Marcos said that the National Food Authority needed to increase its rice stock through imports and local sources, noting that the buffer stock was too low. However, the President assured that while the country would rely on importation again, imported rice has steadily decreased.
However, in a report last August 2, NFA noted that their stockpile was only suitable for two days, short of the minimum inventory requirement that would help the country during emergencies or calamities.
According to NFA, its buffer stock as of June 2023’s end was at 1.22 million bags or 60,819.95 metric tons (MT), which would last for just two days based on a daily rice consumption rate of 679,670 bags or 33,983.5 MT.
A safe buffer stock would have to last for at least nine days.
Last Tuesday, Nueva Ecija 3rd District Rep. Ria Vergara also issued a warning against the looming rice shortage, saying that it seems to bring back memories of the onion crisis in 2022 but only this time, with rice.