Author: Gemma Rita R. Marin
Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Philippine Statistics Authority.
Rice importation has been a hot topic these past months. Last March, the National Food Authority insisted on not allowing private-sector rice imports even if it meant defying the NFA Council’s decision of a month-long extension on rice importation. In April, a Cabinet undersecretary was sacked by President Duterte for allegedly approving the order to extend the private-sector importation without the authority to do so despite her claim that she was only implementing the council’s decision. It was about the same time that the President directed the NFA to boost the local supply of rice given the harvest season, yet NFA chief Jason Laureano Aquino managed to sign three import permits during the same period. In May, the NFA reverted to allowing the private sector to import rice. This was fortified in June when the NFA Council issued a policy shift from a government-to-government (G2G) to a government-to-private scheme (G2P) of importation.
In an effort to shed light on the executive agencies’ seeming differences and disagreements, the Senate committee on agriculture and food set a hearing on rice importation. But the highlight of the hearing turned out to be the controversial remarks of the committee chair, Sen. Cynthia Villar, on the benefits of eating brown rice instead of well-milled rice, and the wisdom of prohibiting restaurants from serving “unli rice” for health reasons. But what good is such advice if, in the first place, there is not enough food for our people, especially the poor, to consume?