By Nonoy Lacson and Ellson Quismorio
Zamboanga City has been in a state of disaster due to a shortage of rice, caused by an unabated increase in the prices of commercial rice sold on the public market.
Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco said that the measure will help the city government to address the shortage of rice and will help ease the unabated price increase of the basic component.
The price of commercial rice sold here on the main public market is now as high as P68 per kilo and a low of P55 per kilo, a price that many poor people can now buy here for a kilo of rice for their meal.
The city council is also considering setting a P45 per kilo price ceiling for commercial consumption for three months. It also plans to ask the National Food Authority (NFA) to increase the supply of rice in Zamboanga City.
NFA-assistant director Ruben Manatad revealed that the agency has only 40,000 bags of government price in its warehouse in the city – a stock that can last only one week, based on a daily consumption of 6,400 bags per day.
With the rice crisis Zamboanga City 1st District Rep CelsoLobregat is trying to institutionalize the city's food security program. He noted that local rice production can not meet the demand of the growing population in Zamboanga City and must supply rice outside the city.
State of disaster does not solve the crisis
Lobregat said that the state of the disaster in the city will never solve the situation due to a shortage of rice, unless all issues relating to the shortage of rice and too high prices have to be dealt with.
"The declaration of the state of disaster in the city is an acknowledgment that something is really wrong, this is an economic issue that affects the poorest of the poor, so I, as a government official, must take steps to tackle something. the current economic crisis, "Lobregat said.
Lobregat made comments to NFA Director Genaro "Jun" Nuñez for releasing additional NFA rice to retailers to reduce the price of rice on the market.
He visited the NFA-accredited shops in the public market of Zamboanga City and Sta. Cruz Public Market to ensure that there is sufficient NFA rice.
NFA asked for action against a crisis
Davao City, 1st District Rep. KarloNogralescourt, in turn, visited the NFA to check price manipulation when he drew the office's attention to reports of abnormally high rice prices in Zamboanga City.
According to the Philippine Authority for Statistics (PSA), the average selling price of one kilogram of normal wholly milled rice in the country is P42.26, while the average retail price of milled rice is P45.71.
"Even if we are talking about less than optimal weather conditions, the discrepancy of prices on the Zamboanga peninsula is huge, masyado pa rin pong mahalangpresyongito (these prices are still too high). Such prices put a lot of pressure on the limited budgets of families who only want three square meals a day, the NFA has to check if something illegal is going on, "Nogales said.
Nogales wasted no time to respond to the problem because he helped facilitate the introduction and distribution of NFA rice in Zamboanga City to halt the price hike.
"About 120,000 sacks or 6,000 tons of rice were allocated to Region IX by the NFA, which will help stabilize the rising prices of local commercial rice because consumers would have more choices of rice to choose from," Nograles said.
NFA rice is P27 per kilo and is the most affordable rice variety on the market.
Unscrupulous traders the blame?
According to the NFA, the current scarcity of rice in the country is due to the wave of bad weather that has influenced both rice production and the shipment of staple food.
"What is worse is that the information that is passed on to me is that unscrupulous traders hoard more rice, so prices continue to rise, they manipulate the market to their advantage, but this causes probinsyanos to suffer." Angdamina pong nagsusumbongsa related (much have told me about this).
"The NFA has to find out whether this practice occurs only in Zamboanga City or on the entire Zamboanga peninsula," the three-month congressman emphasized.
Reports that reached Nograles indicated these rice prices in Region IX: Dipolog, Zamboanga Del Norte, P55 to 60 per kilo; Pagadian, Zamboangadel Sur, P55 to 60 per kilo; Ipil, Zamboanga del Sur, P55 to 60 per kilo; and Zamboanga City, P60 to 68 per kilo.
Slightly more to the south in Basilan, the rice prices are linked to P60 to 70 per kilo.
Nograles said that he asked the NFA and the Ministry of Agriculture (DA) to inform him about their inspections in different rice warehouses in the region.
Import to cause a crisis
In the meantime, agricultural expert Emmanuel Piñol fears a rice crisis will arise if the country's economic managers continue to insist on more imports instead of allocating funds to stimulate local production.
Piñol said in a statement that the rice crisis in the city of Zamboanga and the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawitawi – where the price of rice has recently risen to P70 per kilo – can also happen to the whole country if the economic managers are successful with their proposal to just rely on imported rice and reduce government spending on the rice sector in the country.
In just a few days time, rice prices of about P38 per kilo rose as high as P70 per kilo.
"When smuggling was stopped, prices of rice began to rise in the ZAMBASULTA markets and consumers asked the government for subsidized rice from the National Food Authority (NFA), which they have ignored in the past," Piñol said. (With a report from Madelaine B. Miraflor)