Piñol clarifies stand on rice importation amid controversy


Posted at Apr 09 2017 07:13 PM

Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol. From Manny Piñol on Facebook.

MANILA -- Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol on Sunday clarified his stand on the issue of rice importation after an undersecretary was fired for allegedly going against the order of the National Food Authority (NFA) administrator.

In a statement posted on his Facebook page, Piñol said he is against any form of rice importation, whether government to government or importation through the private sector. 

"The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries has publicly declared that it is against the immediate lifting of the Quantitative Restriction (QR) on imported rice on the ground that the Filipino rice farmers are not yet ready to compete with their counterparts in the region because of low productivity and high production cost," he wrote.

He added that there is no need to import rice because of the increased national average yield of local farmers.

"For the first time in the history of the country, the national average yield per hectare is now at 4.15 metric tons per harvest, up from 3.9 metric tons," Piñol noted.

"Ayaw ko nga mag-import dahil sagana ang ani ngayon! Where's the logic?" he added.

(I do not support importation because we have enough rice.)

Piñol, likewise, distanced himself from "petty quarrels" between government officials.

"To those who are trying to drag me into a quarrel with other officials of this administration, you will fail in your attempt. I don't fight petty quarrels. I have a bigger battle in front of me and that is the fight against poverty and hunger in the country. This is the fight that I will focus on," he explained.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday ordered a temporary halt in rice importation from Vietnam as local farmers posted a high yield of the staple this harvest season. 

At a harvest festival in Nueva Ecija on Wednesday, Duterte fired Undersecretary Maia Chiara Halmen Reina Valdez for defying NFA Administrator Jason Aquino's decision to suspend rice importation given the local harvest season. 

Valdez, on the other hand, alleged that the President may have received false information about her, saying this also maligned her “tatay (father) in the government," Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr.