Assistant Secretary Jonas Soriano of the Office of the Cabinet Secretary on Tuesday belied reports that the rice reserve of the National Food Authority (NFA) has been depleted.
"Walang kulang na supply ng bigas, pero itong ating NFA rice, dwindling ang supply," he said in a Bandila DZMM interview.
His statement came after the Grain Retailers Confederation of the Philippines on Tuesday revealed there is no more supply of NFA rice in Metro Manila, Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, and Calabarzon.
"I don't think zero 'yan. 'Pag zero 'yan, there will be areas na kawawa," Soriano insisted.
Though the country's NFA rice reserve had dwindled, he said this is not a cause for alarm.
NFA rice, Soriano said, only accounts for at least four percent of the overall distribution in the market.
However, the inter-agency NFA council wondered why the state grains agency ran out of the cheap staple.
Under the law, the NFA management is required to have a 15-day buffer stock at any given time in case of calamities, Soriano said.
"There was no expectation na magkakaroon ng shortage," he said.
The NFA management, Soriano revealed, also sold a lot of its rice supply to retailers from October to December, during the harvest season.
Because of the looming crisis on the government-subsidized rice, President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the management to import 250,000 metric tons of rice.
"This rice issue is a very sensitive issue. It involves production, importation, and involves so many branches of government so that's why the president wanted NFA to be under the Office of the President," Soriano said.
He said the imported rice, which will boost the country's rice supply, will arrive in May.
"Para tumama sa harvest season ng June at July. Para hindi maapektuhan ang presyo ng mga farmers," Soriano added.