Photo from Jhay Jalbuna/THEPHILBIZNEWS
In an apparent frustration over the smuggled rice that caused sky rocket prices in Zamboanga-Basilan-Tawi-Tawi, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol wants to address the rice shortage by establishing a rice trading center.
As I said before, there is no nationwide rice shortage, only in the areas Zamboanga-Basilan-Sulu-Tawi-Tawi (Zambasulta). That is why I came up with an idea to establish a rice trading center, where you bring in rice, wherever that came from and pay a little tariff.
When asked whether his proposal was a way of tolerating illegal practices, Piñol justified that the “cultural context”and “culture”must be considered.
“For them it is a form of barter trade, maybe to us it’s smuggling,. They have been transacting with Malaysia and other nearby areas, historically, we need to look at that,” the Agriculture Chief explained.
Piñol went on by saying that local traders in these provinces have already “given up” on selling rice since they were not able to compete with smuggled rice priced at only P29 per kilo.However, he clarified that his proposal would not stand forever. The allowable “smuggled rice” would be gradually reduced once the provinces develop their respective rice industries.
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Meanwhile, Zamboanga City and Basilan declared a state of calamity after rice prices soared to P70 per kilo. The prices of basic goods in calamity areas are automatically frozen at prevailing prices or placed under automatic price control.
The agriculture chief earlier proclaimed that the rice crisis in Zamboanga City is “over,” but cheap rice from the National Food Authority (NFA) allotted for the affected areas would only last up to 5 days.
In a Facebook post, Piñol said that the media should refrain from calling his proposal as legalizing smuggling.
“When the rice supplies coming in through the Southern Islands are charged with tariffs and duties, documented, inspected by quarantine officers and the needed volume controlled, is that smuggling? No, sir, it is not! That is already a legal importation of rice” he said.
He projected government to earn around P2 billion from the proposal.