Palace says "no need to panic" over absence of NFA rice stock
Malacanang said on Tuesday that the public should not panic despite reports that there was no more rice reserve by the National Food Authority.
In a text message to reporters, Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra said overall there is sufficient rice supply in the country.
"We all know that the NFA stocks were really low, but the overall rice supply is more than sufficient with plenty to spare. No need to panic," he said.
Even if the NFA's distribution stock was reportedly wiped out, he said there is no need to further advance the importation of 250,000 metric tons of rice.
"There's no shortage, that's why the schedule for importation is the same," Guevarra said.
Last month, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered NFA to start the procurement process for the importation of 250,000 MT of rice, earlier than what was initially set by the NFA Council, to stabilize market prices.
With no more buffer stock of NFA rice, asked on the possibility of further increase of prices of commercial rice, Guevarra said, "An unusual rise in price despite more than adequate supplies could only be the result of manipulation."
He said the government would monitor rice traders very closely.
Meanwhile, Assistant Secretary and Deputy Executive Director Jonas Soriano of the Office of the Cabinet Secretary urged the Commission on Audit to look into the operation of NFA.
He wondered why the agency had to sell rice during the last quarter of 2017 when it was harvest season.
"During lean season when there was not much rice supply, they don't sell much. So where's the logic? But we don't want to make any judgment here. That's why one of the resolutions is to pursue audit by COA to look at operations of management, not only in October, November, December, but henceforth, since the Duterte administration came in and a little before that. So, we can establish the pattern," he said in a phone patch interview.
"Why the need to sell when there is a need for buffer stock?," he added.
The official said several questions have to be answered, which could help in crafting policies to make sure that the people are protected, as well as the farmers. Celerina Monte/DMS