MANILA—Senator Grace Poe on Saturday is calling for a Senate inquiry into the alleged shortage of government-subsidized rice.
In a statement, Poe said there should be a full-blown legislative inquiry on the alleged existence of syndicates at the National Food Authority (NFA) and why there's a rice shortfall.
“Kailangan nating tingnan sa mga merkado kung nagkakaroon ng kakulangan [ng suplay ng NFA rice]," Poe said.
"Bakit tayo umaabot sa nagkukulang tayo? Mayroon bang sindikato sa loob na nagpipigil ng tamang datos na ilabas kung mayroon bang sapat o di sapat [na suplay]?"
NFA rice stocks fell to its lowest in a decade on Tuesday after the NFA Council failed to approve a request to import 250,000 metric tons of rice in November 2017.
“Sa tingin ko ilang dekada nang nagkakaroon ng haka-haka at ugong-ugong tungkol doon sa mga sindikato diyan sa NFA," Poe said.
Cabinet Secretary Jun Evasco, who chairs the inter-agency NFA Council, bared Thursday that President Rodrigo Duterte has authorized importing an additional 250,000 metric tons of rice.
This is on top of 325,000 metric-ton supply that was bought in 2017 and will be delivered this month, Evasco said.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, however, denied such a shortage exists, saying commercial traders were fanning reports of an alleged shortfall to "justify the entry of additional imported rice."
Poe said the agriculture department should help local farmers by asking cooperatives to buy rice straight from them.
“Puwedeng hikayatin ng DA ang mga kooperatiba na magsama-sama at bilhin natin ang natitirang mga bigas sa ating mismong magsasaka. Huwag nating baratin. Bilhin natin sa tamang presyo kasi kung 'yun lamang ay mapupunuan din kahit papaano at matutulungan pa ang ating mga magsasaka,” she said.