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Piñol stays, Duterte rejects legalized ‘smuggling of rice’

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Despite of so many issue on rice supply including the smuggling of rice and importation of galunggong, President Rodrigo Duterte said he has no plan of dismissing any official over the country’s rice brouhaha which include the insufficient supply and high prices and even the proposed “legalization” of smuggled rice in some areas to address the rice shortage.

In his departure speech going to Israel, he said, “You know, all officials, including me, are bound by laws on the matter like rice, whatever it is. There are laws to be followed.”

There were various groups called for Piñol and Aquino’s resignation and on this issue the President was asked about his plan for Piñol and Aquino and he said, “Perhaps our laws are weak or are unenforceable. All we have to do is to improve these laws,  but this does not automatically calls for firing people,” he added when asked if he plans on firing Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol and National Food Authority Administrator Jason Aquino over their supposed incompetence in handling the rice crisis.

The rice shortage, though not experiences nationwide according to Piñol has resulted in a skyrocket prices. From the government’s data cited, the average retail prices of regular-milled rice rose 12.76 percent, while that of well-milled rice went up 9.89 percent.

“I don’t see any serious offense there. We have not really lost anything except that there’s an aberration in the market,” the president added. But both Piñol and Aquino earlier said they are not resigning over the rice crisis.

While Duterte excludes Piñol from the list of officials he would sack, personally he said he is not in favor of the former’s proposal to legalize rice smuggling.

He said, ”No, the smuggling itself, of course not. That will be destructive to the economy. You willcreate chaos in the market, and for sure it would also promote disorder in this country.”

But Duterte said he would handle the the smuggled rice by distributing it for free or importing it at a very low price instead of just disposing them.

Piñol explained before that rice smuggling was the cause of scarcity of the Filipino staple food in some city. He said that while the government calls it smuggling, “people in the island considered it as part of their traditional trading practices known as “berter trade.”

The local governments of Zamboanga and Isabela, Basilan were placed under a state of calamity over the scarcity of rice last month and the declarations according to their local leaders are effective only for 60 days.

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