MANILA- President Rodrigo Duterte claimed Friday that he was misunderstood on his earlier order to halt rice importation.
Duterte said it would be dangerous for the Philippines to suspend importation of the staple grain and depend solely on the produce of local rice farmers since there is no assurance that it would be enough to supply the entire country.
"And you know there’s never a way of knowing how much typhoon would ravage our plant including the rice land and whether there would be a good harvest or not. So delikado ‘yan sabihin mo na --- well I have been greatly misunderstood," he said.
The President explained that the country needs to import rice since local farmers could not meet the demand.
"Sabagay, I have always been misunderstood. My presidency was a misunderstood venture. Ganun talaga. At ang sinabi ko, we have to import because the producer cannot fill up the requirements, it’s lacking," he added.
Duterte earlier ordered the suspension of rice importation during local harvest season even as he signed a law that pushed for tariffs in place of import quotas.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar met with Duterte over the matter and clarified that the Philippines would not suspend rice importation.
Dar said the country would instead tighten food safety measures to control the entry of cheap grain that is hurting the income of local farmers.
The President assured local farmers that the government would prioritize their produce.
"Bilihin talaga natin lahat ‘yung kanila (We buy their produce). Before we venture into this rice tariffication imports," he said.
"My duty is not to the businessmen. I have nothing to do with them. I don’t care what happens to them. I care about the people and I said, “Buy this because you are buying social unrest"," he added.
-with a report from Reuters