MANILA A partylist lawmaker on Monday appealed to President Rodrigo R. Duterte to issue an executive order to donate the seized smuggled rice to the National Food Authority (NFA) and allow the agency to resell it at lower prices.
AGRI Rep. Orestes Salon made the statement following reports that the Philippine Navy confiscated 1,359 metric tons of Vietnam rice worth PHP68 million from a foreign vessel off Zamboanga Sibugay last Saturday.
"Given that the NFA's supply of cheap rice is at a dangerously low level, maybe the President can issue an executive order mandating that the NFA resells seized smuggled rice at lower prices, said Salon.
Salon also suggested putting in place a monitoring system to prevent traders from mixing resold smuggled rice with commercial rice.
While such a measure was merely a "stop-gap", he said the poor who rely on government-subsidized rice would benefit from it.
He noted that the government should prioritize improving agricultural production and provide support to local farmers to address the smuggling of rice and other agricultural products in the long run.
Earlier in the day, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said MalacaAang is mulling over the possibility of the NFA reselling the seized rice at a lower price to increase the agency's stockpile.
For his part, Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao urged the government to investigate the botched rice smuggling.
Casilao cited a Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura report, stating that the government incurred a total of PHP64 billion revenue losses due to widespread smuggling of agricultural products.
He said this reflected a PHP32-billion loss per year, which is equivalent to the Department of Agriculture's budget for 2016; and excess funds for the rehabilitation of the agriculture sector.
"Aside from virtually no government subsidies to local farmers for procuring reasonable price of palay, agricultural smuggling, which includes rice, is further killing our local rice farmers' livelihood. Worse, through smuggling, billions of revenues are lost," he said. (PNA)
Source: Philippine News Agency