MANILA - Malacañang on Tuesday stressed the need to improve the country’s irrigation systems to address problems on rice production, following reports that the Philippines has surpassed China as the world’s biggest rice importer this year.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo made the statement in response to the report by the US Department of Agriculture-Foreign Agricultural Services (USDA-FAS), which also said the country was the 11th largest among US agricultural export markets.
“Ever since, 'yan ang problema (irrigation). Marami tayong rice land, pero hindi pumapasok ang tubig. So, we really have to improve on our irrigation system para maganda ang production,” Panelo said.
(Ever since, that has been the problem. We have lots of rice land, but water cannot enter them. So, we really have to improve on our irrigation system so production will be good.)
Panelo said programs were in place to ensure that farmers have access to free irrigation.
The Philippine government earlier allowed the unregulated entry of imported rice through the rice tariffication law, which was meant to stabilize prices of the staple grain, liberalizing rice importation in the country by replacing quotas with taxes.
The measure mandated the creation of a Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) worth P10 billion to help palay
(grain) farmers compete.
Malacañang said Agriculture Secretary William Dar “will undertake measures to solve whatever problems in the agriculture industry.”
The Department of Agriculture earlier denied that the Philippines had topped China in rice imports this year following the USDA-FAS report, saying the American agricultural bureau uses a different set of statistics in its projection.