Volunteers repack relief goods in Quezon City yesterday.
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Duterte: Importing rice can be difficult due to COVID
Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) - April 8, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines may have difficulty importing rice because other countries are relying on their own production for food security amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, according to President Duterte.

In his taped address to the nation on Monday night, Duterte said he has been losing sleep thinking of ways to cope with the health crisis.

He lamented that if the crisis drags on for months, the government’s “resources are not infinite.”

While there are efforts to procure rice from abroad, Duterte noted that some countries are not ready to export their produce to save for their own countrymen.

He said he would still reach out to the Philippines’ rice import partners.

The President said he is trusting his Cabinet members to do their jobs, including Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Bautista who was tasked to implement the P200-billion social amelioration program for the country’s 18 million poor families.

“Some have received assistance while others have not,” Duterte said, adding that processes delayed the distribution of emergency funds in the bagangays.

“I am reiterating that the most vulnerable citizens, especially the poorest of the poor, must receive the  government’s assistance immediately. Kung hindi patay ‘yan sa gutom (If not they will die of hunger),” he said.

Earlier, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles announced that the government would buy 300,000 tons of rice from Vietnam to boost its stocks.

At a press briefing yesterday, Nograles said the Inter-Agency Task Force has approved the recommendations of the Department of Agriculture (DA) in ensuring food availability and affordability.

Crop, fish production

The government has reiterated its call to authorities to treat local farmers as frontliners to ensure stable food supply after the President extended the enhanced community quarantine until April 30.

Nograles said the government would boost domestic agricultural production and processing.

“Agriculture and fisheries stakeholders must be considered frontliners and their movements shall remain unhampered,” he said.

Agriculture stakeholders earlier called on authorities to treat farmers as frontliners too as the lockdown is taking a toll on the supply and prices of basic commodities.

“We will also improve our food adequacy levels through increased crop and fish production, livestock and poultry raising as well as food processing by expanding support for agricultural production and productivity,” Nograles said.

Last week, the IATF approved the proposal of the DA for a P31-billion supplemental budget. – With Emmanuel Tupas, Louise Maureen Simeon, Ramon Efren Lazaro

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