By Genalyn D. Kabiling
The country could have an abundant supply of rice that will help bring down market prices, President Duterte said following his decision to remove the quota on rice importation.
The President said “anybody who has money” could now import rice to boost the country’s stockpile but reminded them to pay the correct taxes.
Duterte, speaking to reporters upon his arrival in Davao City Sunday morning from a visit to Singapore, admitted that rice quota import has become a source of corruption which prompted him to remove such system.
“‘Yung quota-quota, that’s the source of corruption. Anybody now, businessman, whether it’s a Filipino-Chinese or Filipino-Visayan, whatever. They can import rice,” he said.
“They would have to play by the market. Mag-sobra silang lahat dito, punuin nila ng bigas ang Pilipinas, ‘di mas lalong mag-mura. Pabor sa akin ‘yan [We can have a surplus here, fill the Philippines with rice so it will be cheaper. I am in favor of that],” he added.
The President earlier announced he has removed the import quota on rice purchases to allow traders to freely buy rice and boost the country’s inventory. Duterte said he wants the country’s warehouses filled to the brim, far from the “half empty or hall full” practice of the past.
“Para wala nang gulo, it’s anybody who has the money can import,” he said in Davao City.
“My job is to fill our warehouse and inventory. Kaya ako nagalit kasi ‘yung inventory natin, it’s half-full or half-empty, whichever you would want to term it,” he added.
Duterte, however, assured that the government would not import rice during the harvest season in a bid to protect local farmers. He said he has already issued the order to National Food Authority administrator Jason Aquino.
“Sabi ko, hindi naman tayo diyan kikita na ‘yan. Bilihin mo ‘yung ano – pilitin mo ang presyo. So pagka harvest season, walang importation but that is a government-imposed regulation,” he said.
“It has bogged every administration. Let loose. Bitawan mo. Sige, import kayong lahat. Malugi tayo? Basta kinain lang ng tao, kinain ng Pilipino. Wala akong problema,” he added. (Everybody is free to import. Will we lose money? For as long as the rice is eaten by Filipinos then I have no problem with that.)