Duterte not banking on rice self-sufficiency; import policy remains

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(File photo)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 13) — President Rodrigo Duterte said he does not think the country can achieve rice sufficiency.

At a speech in Malacañang Wednesday, the President said, "If you'd ask me, in the next coming years we'll just have to import rice. I don't believe that we can be rice sufficient"

In April, the President removed rice import limits in the wake of a supply shortage.

In Wednesday's speech, Duterte cited earlier reports of low rice yield and importation saying there was low bumper yield. He said he even asked officials why the buffer stock then was only good for three to four days.

This was a concern, the President said, as seeing a warehouse filled to the ceiling with stocks of rice gives "a very consoling feeling."

The President also said if only there was peace in Mindanao, the mainly agricultural area could help augment the lack of rice.

In May, the Philippine Statistics Authority released its first quarter report on the country's agriculture performance.

It said the agriculture sector grew by just 1.47 percent in that period and palay production grew by 4.61 percent. Its price went up by 10.19 percent from the same period 2017.

On Monday, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said the National Food Authority should impose tariffs on rice, and allow the private sector to import supply.

"If you allow the private sector to import the rice, nakikita po namin na ang presyo ng bigas ay bababa ng as much as P7 per kilo," Diokno said.

[Translation: If you allow the private sector to import the rice, then we see prices go down to as much as P7 per kilo.]

Filipinos must pay taxes

The President delivered his speech after witnessing the ceremonial signing of the memorandum of agreement (MOA) to launch Republic Act (RA) No. 10931 or the Universal access to quality tertiary education act.

The MOA was signed  between the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and about 200 state and local universities.

RA 10931 provides for free tuition and school fees in state universities and colleges, local universities and colleges, and state-run technical-vocational institutions.

In his speech, Duterte said it was a "crucial step in helping young Filipinos fulfill their dreams of becoming productive members of the country's workforce through educational degrees and technical or vocational training."

However, the President recognized that money was an issue.

He related a Cabinet meeting where Education Secretary Leonor Briones said people must pay their taxes.

"They have to pay for the government to work," Duterte said. "There is no other way where we can raise money for the needs of the Filipino people except through taxes."