MANILA, Philippines – Consumers are asking the government to retain the supply of the low-priced rice of the National Food Authority (NFA) in local markets even after the passage of the proposed Rice Traffication Act.
Housewife, Carmencita Aceri, said her household consumes up to 84 kilograms of rice a month.
The prevailing retail price of regular-milled rice in Metro Manila markets nowadays is P39/kg, according to data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).
Carmencita said, buying NFA rice at P27 per kilogram helps her save P12 a kilogram or a clear P1,000 big savings for her tight budget in a month.
“Ang matitipid mo dito pwede narin iyon ang ipambili mo ng ulam kahit itlog,” she said.
Alan Pabustan, also a patron of NFA rice, shares the same sentiment as Carmencita and other patrons of low-priced NFA rice.
“Malaking kawalan din. Kumbaga malakin tulong din sa amin ang NFA (rice) siyempre mura,” he said.
“Mahirap po ang budget ngayon sa ganitong nangangalakal lang po ang nanay ko. Medyo kapos po pagka tumaas (ang presyo)” expressed another rice consumer Jea Estomata.
On Tuesday (December 19), the Department of Agriculture (DA) expressed concern over the possible removal of NFA rice in local markets once the proposed Rice Tariffication Act is enacted into law.
Under the proposed legislation, the NFA’s regulatory and importation power will be removed and the agency’s function will only be limited to buffer-stocking.
Also, the agency will no longer import rice and it will only buy the local farmers’ yield.
But according to the agriculture group Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG), the NFA can still supply rice to local markets even without the subsidy coming from the government.
“Ang explanation ng NEDA sa amin doon sa Senate hearing sa Committee on Agriculture ang presyo ng palay kung totoo dahil doon sa importation magiging P17/kg pwede paring magbenta ng P27/kg na bigas,” said Rosendo So of SINAG.
The proposed Act also provides P10 billion fund for farmers’ subsidy which can be used to help lower production cost while increasing farmers’ yield.
But a consumer group argued that farmers cannot hold on yet to the rice subsidy plan because the government has no existing fund for the program.
“Nabasa ko ang final bill na na-approved ng bicam. Walang namang sinabing aabonohan ng gobyerno ang P10B. Ang intindi ko kukunin pa iyang P10B doon sa mga buwis ng mga importer,” Atty. Vic Dimagiba of Laban Konsyumer said.
Meanwhile, the proposed Rice Tariffication Act is just awaiting the signature of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Presidential Spokesperon Salvador Panelo believes that once the bill becomes a law, consumers can expect much lower price of rice in the market.
“Kapag ni-liberalized mo naman, magkakaroon ng competition in the market so magpapapabaan sila ng presyo. Otherwise, hindi sila mabibili kaya nga law of supply and demand iyan,” Panelo concluded. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Rey Pelayo)