Noy allies find credible NICA’s unrest warning due to prices

Published by rudy Date posted on April 13, 2011

One of President Aquino’s allies in the Senate finds credibility on a possible public unrest caused by falling rice production and rising prices which was reportedly contained in a National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) report submitted to President Aquino.

“We are not surprised with the results of the NICA report. The trend in higher food process did not begin February — not even this year. The United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) started reporting about the trend in 2010 and so the increase is not going to be sudden,” Sen. Francis Pangilinan said yesterday.

Pangilinan, chairman of the committee on food and

and agriculture in the Senate, was reacting to reports from Nica that the country’s shrinking “rice supply” has become a matter of “national concern.”

Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala in a press conference in Malacañang denied the report outright saying the country is not facing an impending rice crisis.

Alcala added Nica denied issuing such a report. But whether or not there’s truth to the claims made by NICA in its report, Pangilinan pointed out that the ongoing trend shows the need for the country to prepare in order to avert an impending rice crisis.

“If we ignore the signs, a ‘crisis’ will creep up slowly, catching us unaware. On the other hand, we can use this time to prepare and ensure food security and stable prices. There will be no destabilization or crisis if we prepare now and focus on solutions,” he said.

The national government together with the local governments, farmers’ groups, the academe, traders, millers, small and medium enterprises should come together at the grassroots level and help boost rice supply.

“We should mobilize people power to boost rice supply and ensure food sufficiency,” Pangilinan said.

Sen. Gregorio Honasan, on the other hand, urged President Aquino to seriously consider convening the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (Ledac) anew to address the impending “emergencies” the country is facing both in and out of the Philippine territory.

“Are we assured of steady supply of electricity, petroleum diesel etc.? If the answer is no, we have a big problem. If yes, the next question is: can we provide the majority of our people with this steady supply of energy at reasonable prices? If not, why? We’re not solving the problem.

“To me, we have an impending emergency. The Neda (National Economic Development Authority) is supposed to be the receptacle of all the effects of all these issues like (rise in prices of) petroluem, rice supply, transportation. If indication shows or projection is that prices of these commodities is on the rise, to me, that is a potential problem. The Neda, which the President chairs, should hear the inputs from Neda for a coordinated and consolidated areas of responsibilities of almost all the government departments,” Honasan, former chair of the energy committee in the Senate, said.

The senator said they have not been remiss in their duties insofar as calling the attention of concerned government agencies during the early stages of the political turmoil in the Middle East as to the possible effects in the country.

“It is my humble opinion that it is time to call for a Ledac meeting, to discuss and study the situation. Despite the efforts of the President (Aquino) and Vice President (Jejomar Binay), the people seem to be depending on dole-outs. There’s no long-term policy planning. We continue to suffer from these burdens.

“It’s not only Malacañang (that’s not aggressive in taking appropriate action) but the temperament of the Philippine society, is not proactive, does not have advanced long-term term planning. When the was execution of Filipinos in China, everyone was practically jumping all over the place. Now, will we wait again until another set of Filipinos are executed?” he asked.

Alcala, meanwhile, reassured the public that the supply of rice remains stable, during a briefing of journalists covering the Office of the President or the Palace beat.

The DA’s Bureau of Agricultural Statistics estimates that palay (unmilled rice) harvest for thefrist semester is expected to reach more than 7.64 million metric tons (MT), which is 15.4 percent more than last year’s output of 6.62 million MT for the same six-month period.

With the bumber harvest, he said there is no need to import additional rice on top of the earlier volume approved by the National Food Authority (NFA) Council, at 860,000 MT.

He is surprised about the news reports that there is a plan to import 300,000 metric tons more. He said the NFA Council, which he chairs, has yet to convene middle of this month. He said the council has yet to assess the current rice harvest and supply situation for the first semester, and the forecast for the second semester based on farmers’ planting intentions.

In addition, he said that from his weekly sorties all over the country to meet with farmers and irrigators, he has witnessed first-hand the expected bumper harvest, and thus he is confident that rice supply for the 3rd quarter will be stable.

Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano Tuesday said that a looming rice crisis is “a real problem” that cannot be addressed by palliative and short-term solutions but by “real solutions.”

The Nica report said that “one of the possible flash points being watched by the local intelligence community was the supply and prices of rice worldwide.”

“The imminent rice crisis is a real problem in the country that no amount of palliative solution can address. Only real solutions are needed to avert a looming rice crisis by implementing major policy reversals and sustained rice production,” Mariano said.

Mariano, chair of the peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), said “this could be worse than the rice crisis that hit the country in 1995 and 2008.

“Indeed, this food security problem would exacerbate social and political tensions and is now turning into a national security concern,” Mariano said. “In the previous rice crises, we have seen long queues of people at NFA warehouses. Now, the imminent rice crisis might bring about mammoth protests and food riots unless correctly and determinedly addressed.”

Mariano said, the external factor would be the “the tightening of supply and shooting up of rice prices in the world market will be triggered by the Philippines’ increased dependency.”

“The country being the No. 1 rice importer, cornering a bulk of world supply, has drastically affected the movement of rice prices in the world market,” Mariano, author of the HB 3105 or the proposed Rice Industry Development Act, said. –Charlie V. Manalo with Angie M. Rosales, Daily Tribune

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