Senate probe sought to avert spread of Zamboanga rice crisis

Two senators on Wednesday sought an inquiry in aid of crafting remedial legislation to avert repeat of the recent rice crisis that hit Zamboanga City, and check the eight-month surge of staple prices in other parts of the country.

Sens. Francis N. Pangilinan and Paolo Benigno A. Aquino IV filed Senate Resolution 868, paving the way for Senate hearings amid calls to hold the National Food Authority (NFA) accountable, asserting the need to see to it that cheap and quality rice is available in the market.

“The NFA must explain the said shortage, the alleged hoarding and how the situation in Zamboanga City reached calamity level,” the two senators stressed.

In moving to open an inquiry, Pangilinan and Aquino asserted the public’s right to be informed on “how the NFA is trying to solve the crisis situation so that unscrupulous traders and other influential forces in and out of government are not able to manipulate the procurement process and the availability of rice stocks.”

The senators noted that, apart from Zamboanga City, also placed under a state of calamity was Isabela City in Basilan “due to rice scarcity.”

“The rice crisis is not limited to Zamboanga City, where prices reached P70 per kilo, as the Philippine Statistics Authority reported an upward streak in rice prices for 8 months now,” they added.

Senate Resolution 868 also cited statistics recording year-on-year increases on: average wholesale price of well-milled rice at P43.18 per kilo, or 10 percent higher; average retail price of well-milled rice at P45.71 per kilo, or 9 percent higher; average wholesale price of regular-milled rice at P40.08 per kilo, or 13 percent higher; and average retail price of regular-milled rice at P42.26 per kilo, or 11 percent higher.

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Butch Fernandez is BusinessMirror’s senior political reporter based at the Senate. He has covered Malacanang (3 presidencies), the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, local governments and defense since 1984.

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