Not during harvest season

Groups who are claiming that President Rody Duterte's recent decision to approve the importation of rice to beef up the country's buffer stocks marked a "policy shift" and indicated he backtracked on his earlier pronouncement of "no importation" are not only twisting facts but are also placing the President in a bad light.

This post is intended to clarify the issue and put things in the correct perspective.

1. Did President Duterte really declare that there would be "No Importation?"

Answer: No.

On April 5, during the rice harvest festival in Talavera, Nueva Ecija, a farmer leader, Dan Bolos, asked President Duterte not to allow rice importation during peak harvest season of local farmers because the traders were using this as an excuse to lower the buying price of paddy rice.

In support of Bolos' request, I briefed the President while we were on stage that the practice of bringing in imported during peak harvest season is an "old gimmick" of rice traders to take advantage of Filipino rice farmers.

Pres. Duterte, when he delivered his speech during the event, announced that as a policy he will no longer allow rice importation during peak harvest season.

So, to set things right let me clarify that President Duterte never declared that there would be "No Importation" because he knows that there is still a short fall in the country's rice supply of between 500,000 to 800,000 metric tons.

The policy statementis very clear: No rice importation during peak harvest season of Filipino rice farmers.

2. Did President Duterte "change his mind" when he recently approved the request of the National Food Authority (NFA) Council to allow the importation of rice?

Answer: No.

President Duterte was sufficiently briefed by the Dept. of Agriculture that there is still a shortfall of about 800,000 metric tons in the country's rice supply this year which could be sourced through importation.

In fact, on April 26, shortly before the ASEAN Summit, he asked me in front of several Cabinet members during a meeting in Malacañang what my position was on the proposal to import rice.

I told President Duterte that there is really a need to import additional rice stocks and that the best time to make the importation is during this season because of two reasons:

1. The local harvest season is over and rice importation would not affect the buying price of paddy rice;

2. The world market price of rice took a dive because of the earlier decision of the Philippines not to import rice during the First Quarter.

This explanation should make it clear now that President Duterte never changed his mind on the importation of rice and there was never any "policy shift" when he approved the latest importation.

The Dept. of Agriculture and the country's rice farmers support this policy by President Duterte imposing an "Importation Moratorium" during peak harvest season because this protects the Filipino rice farmers.

In fact, this policy by President Duterte increased Filipino rice farmers' income in the First Quarter of 2017 to about P20-B.

(Photos shown in this post were taken during the harvest festival in Talavera, Nueva Ecija on April 5 when President Duterte announced the policy that he would not allow rice importation during peak harvest season.)
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