Senator Cynthia Villar on Tuesday blamed the National Food Authority for causing rice prices to go up earlier this month after announcing a shortage of NFA rice in the country.
The NFA earlier said the agency's rice stocks have been depleted due to multiple typhoons before the end of 2017. It said a request for additional importation has yet to be approved.
NFA officials said its buffer stock will only last for 2 days, far below the required 15-day buffer stock.
But Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol belied the claims and clarified that only the NFA had trouble with their stocks. He said there was enough commercial rice sold in the market.
Villar slammed the NFA for claiming that there was rice shortage even if only 700,000 out of the total 107 million Filipinos consume NFA rice.
"Psychological 'yung effect. If you make a press release na wala kang stock tapos na-confuse 'yung mga tao, then they panic. They buy more than what they need so tumataas lalo yung presyo," Villar, who heads the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, told NFA officials.
"Ang pag-press release niyo na walang rice, hindi alam ng mga tao na ang walang rice is NFA [lang]... I have to explain over and over again that there is no rice shortage. It's only NFA that's failing to do its job," she added.
Before the NFA's press release on the supposed rice shortage, rice prices were still "stable", said Asec. Mercedita Sombilla of the National Economic and Development Authority.
"If you look at the average price of rice before the press release, mababa pa po siya or stable. The week after that press release, nag-shoot up ang prices," Sombilla said.
Villar also reprimanded NFA officials for not having a strategy to ensure that it maintains a 15-day buffer stock as prescribed by existing policies.
"You don't even have a strategy. If you cannot do your job, keep quiet. Don't make us panic," she said.