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Aquino renews vow for rice self-sufficiency in PH by end of year

...Although NFA says PH to import 187,000 tons as buffer stock

President Aquino. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

LUCENA CITY, Quezon, Philippines — President Benigno Aquino III reiterated his previous announcement of rice self-sufficiency in the Philippines by yearend when he went on a second campaign sortie for the local candidates of the Liberal Party in the Quezon province on Monday.

During his 25-minute speech in Filipino before a highly partisan crowd of about 6,000 LP supporters, Aquino said that under Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, a former Quezon congressman, the Philippines, the world’s largest importer of rice, would become rice self-sufficient and would instead export the cereal in 2013.

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“In the year 2013, we would become self-sufficient in rice and it is likely we would export rice,” Aquino said.

The President’s statements, however, belied figures given last month by the National Food Administration which said it had approved the importation of 187,000 metric tons of rice for 2013.

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Besieged by critics on the government’s failure to achieve the goals of its much-touted rice-sufficiency program, Alcala said the importation would only serve as buffer stock for this year’s lean season.

Aquino recalled that during Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s 9-year stint in the presidency, she was able to convince the people on the need to import 1.3 million metric tons of rice to feed the nation.

He said the Arroyo administration imported not 1.3 million but 2.3 million metric tons of rice which, he said, did not benefit the Filipino people.

“Tumaba ang mga daga na kumain ng sobrang bigas na hindi natin pinakinabangan,” (The rats became fat due to excessive supply of rice which did not benefit us), he told the crowd seated at the big grandstand of Alcala sports complex inside the Quezon National High School.

The President arrived here at the sports complex in a motorcade while in the company of Alcala, Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II and Deputy Speaker Lorenzo “Erin” Tañada III.

The grandstand has a seating capacity of 8,000, according to Lito Geron, head of Philippine Information Agency in Quezon. But only three fourths of the concrete grandstand was occupied as both sides were left vacant.

Also present were Team PNoy’s campaign manager Sen. Franklin Drilon, Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III and senatorial candidates Ramon Magsaysay Jr., Risa Hontiveros, former senator Jamby Madrigal and Rep. Edgardo Angara.

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Sen. Loren Legarda was represented by her youngest son Lean and senatorial candidate Bam Aquino by his wife Timi.

Aquino’s party was welcomed by Rep. Irvin Alcala, Proceso’s son and LP gubernatorial candidates against Gov. David Suarez; Vice Gov. Vicente Alcala, Proceso’s elder brother who is running for representative to replace his nephew Irvin; Sam Nantes, the LP candidate for vice governor and scion of the late Quezon Gov. Rafael Nantes; and LP local candidates in the province’s second district.

Early in the day, the President conducted another campaign swing in Lucban town, 24 kilometers from Lucena, and spoke before a jampacked crowd at the gymnasium of Southern Luzon State University.

Aquino has compelling reasons to return to Quezon for another campaign swing as Quezon remained the bailiwick of the political opposition based on the sheer number of reelectionist mayors running under the National Unity Party (NUP) headed here by House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez, father of Governor Suarez.

Records at the Commission on Elections (Comelec) showed at least 21 re-electionist mayors who belong to NUP and one each from the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) and United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).

The administration party, also according to Comelec records, is fielding only nine re-electionist mayors.

Of 21 NUP re-electionist mayors, three are running unopposed—Remedios Uri-Rivera (Buenavista), Sergio Emprese (San Andres) and Eleanor Uy (San Narciso). In San Andres, only eight LP candidates for councilor are running.

In Gumaca, hometown of the Tañada clan of Deputy Speaker and LP spokesman Lorenzo “Erin” Tañada III, there is no LP ticket to speak of. Only two candidates for councilor are carrying the LP name.

Nine towns are considered “free zones” as no incumbent mayor is seeking re-election.

In November 2012, former Quezon Gov. Eduardo Rodriguez resigned from the LP over what he said was the weak party leadership in the province. He, however, returned to the party two months later.

Early this month, Vice President Jejomar Binay led the opposition UNA senatorial slate in a campaign rally here in Lucena. The political activity was attended by more than 14,000 people, according to local organizers.

Early last month, the President also led Team PNoy’s senatorial ticket in their campaign rallies in Catanauan and Gumaca towns.

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TAGS: 2013 midterm elections, Agriculture, Benigno Aquino III, Department of Agriculture, election campaign, Elections, Liberal Party, local elections, News, Philippine president, Politics, Proceso Alcala, rice, rice sufficiency, senatorial elections, Team PNoy
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