Duterte denies there is rice shortage in Philippines

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com
Duterte denies there is rice shortage in Philippines
President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his speech during his meeting with the Filipino community in Israel at the Ramada Hotel in Jerusalem on Sept. 2, 2018.
King Rodriguez / Presidential Photo

JERUSALEM — President Rodrigo Duterte Monday denied that the Philippines is facing a rice shortage as he chided his critics for supposedly politicizing the issue. 

Duterte said the Philippines has more than enough supply of the staple, a major agricultural crop of the country.

"They are saying there is rice shortage. We have lots of rice. Some of them are set to arrive. Now, there's even an excess," the president said during a meeting with the Filipino community here. 

"You know, those are politics. But I would like to remind you that I won because of the vote of the Filipino," he added. 

The National Food Authority and the interagency NFA Council have blamed each other on the lack of cheap rice that led to price spikes in some parts of the country. 
NFA Deputy Administrator Tomas Escare told a House hearing last week that his agency asked the council last October to allow the importation of one million metric tons of rice. He said the council approved the request only last May. 

NFA Council member and Trade Undersecretary Ruth Castelo has disputed Escare's claim, saying the delay was caused by the NFA's failure to provide information about its inventory. 

Last month, the local government of Zamboanga City declared a state of calamity after rice prices rose to P50 to P70 per kilo because of lack of supply. 

Price spikes were also reported in the provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi. 

The Agriculture department opened stores selling cheap rice to stabilize the prices and to address the supply problem. Zamboanga officials lifted the state of calamity declaration two weeks ago. 

Last Sunday, Duterte said he was ready to order government forces to raid rice warehouses to prevent a shortage of the staple.

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