By Raymund Antonio
Vice President Leni Robredo would certainly be open to meeting with Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol to find better ways that will address the pressing concerns of the country’s agriculture sector and the public.
Robredo’s spokesperson and lawyer Barry Gutierrez said they are willing to holding direct talks with Piñol as he acknowledged their meeting should “transcend politics.”
“This will also be an opportunity for the Vice President to bring to light the concerns of those, on the ground, which we previously communicate to the Department of Agriculture in the more than 34 letters we sent the past two years,” he said.
The Robredo camp expressed willingness to sit down with the agriculture secretary in response to his recent Facebook post regarding the high prices of rice.
Piñol slammed Robredo for using the rising prices of rice as a “political issue” against the Duterte administration.
“Two days ago, Vice President Leni Robredo in a press conference, made an off-the-cuff computation on the increase in the cost of rice which she claimed was hurting Filipino consumers using it as a proof that the administration has done little to address rising prices,” Piñol said.
He was referring to the July 10 media briefing with Robredo when she spoke about the monthly increase of P1,600 in rice prices for every Filipino family.
“Her assumption that a Filipino family consumes 40 kilos of rice every week is totally wrong and the number defies all data gathered by the Philippine Statistics Agency,” Piñol claimed.
The agriculture secretary said Robredo’s “wrong rice Math” was an “injustice” to Filipino farmers.
“Not only was her ’40 x 4 = 1,600′ ridiculously and atrociously wrong, it actually showed her lack of profound understanding of the true state of Philippine Agriculture and the poverty that pervades in the farming and fisheries sectors,” he said.
But Gutierrez, a former Akbayan representative, came to her defense, arguing that Piñol made misleading claims and ranted against Robredo on a “wrong premise.”
Gutierrez took a dig at Piñol for not verifying his information and merely relying on Facebook memes.
“He should be aware that the VP very clearly stated that the average family rice consumption is 10 kilos per week or 40 kilos per month,” Gutierrez said.
“Considering that the bulk of his argument revolves around this erroneous fact, Secretary Piñol could have saved himself a lot of trouble had he taken the time to verify the accuracy of his information before going on his ill-advised rant,” he added.