MANILA -- Cabinet officials should agree on their response to supply and price issues on rice, according to a lawmaker tasked by Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to draw up counter-inflation measures.
The Department of Agriculture should "make up" with the National Food Authority Council, which decides rice import policy, as well as the economic team, said Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, an economist.
"It is the duty of the state to feed its people and it is the strategy of this country to keep food cheap by lowering the cost of production. We have failed in most," Salceda told DZMM.
"Kaya ang sinasabi ko ngayon, nasa DA (Department of Agriculture) ang cheap food policy (What I'm saying is, our cheap food policy is up to the DA)," he said.
Food inflation zoomed to 8.5 percent in August, outpacing the headline rate of 6.4 percent. Both are at their fastest in nearly 10 years based on 2012 prices.
The government in recent months also grappled with a rice shortage in the Zamboanga peninsula, which the DA blamed on tighter measures against smuggling.
Asked if the economic team should be replaced, Salceda said: "Hindi ho kailangan palitan, mag-usap usap sila (They don't need to be replaced but they need to talk to each other)."
"Tingin ko lang, kailangan lang ng tiwala sa isa't isa (I think they should trust each other)," she said.
Salceda renewed his push to slash tariffs on meat, fish, vegetables, and corn to help stabilize food price even just for 6 months.
Cheaper imports will encourage price competition, he said.
Asked if food imports should be increased, Salceda said: "Bakit nanganganak ka ba ng lupa? Pero nanganganak ka ng tao. Dumadami yung pangangailangan natin sa paggamit ng lupa."
(Can you give birth to more land? While more babies are born? Our need for land continues to increase.)