MANILA - Peasant and consumer groups on Wednesday urged authorities to implement concrete measures to ease the rising prices of rice, saying that changing the leadership of the National Food Authority (NFA) won't be enough to solve the problem.
Instead of resorting to rice imports, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said one of the things the officials concerned could do is to raise the NFA's buying price for palay (unmilled rice) to P20 from the current P17.
The group Bantay Bigas, meanwhile, urged the government to put a P38 price ceiling on commercial rice to prevent traders from abusing or taking advantage of the supposed lean supply in the market.
In a live interview with Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo on Tuesday, President Rodrigo Duterte said he has started looking for someone new to lead the NFA after its current head Jason Aquino requested to be relieved amid rice supply woes.
He also urged Congress to abolish the NFA Council, saying "it only hinders" the agency's operations with too many involved.
But both KMP and Bantay Bigas said there is no need to abolish the council. The President, they said, only has to make sure that the farmers are well-represented in the body because they know the real issues in agriculture.
The groups hope that Aquino's replacement will have a heart for farmers and the will to uphold the NFA's mandate. They also said Aquino must be held accountable for the country's rice supply problems.
ABS-CBN News tried to get the comment of NFA Council President Jun Evasco on Duterte's recommendation to abolish the body on Wednesday but was told that the official will not be available for an interview. -- report from April Rafales, ABS-CBN News