Duterte prepared to use emergency powers to run after rice hoarders

By Genalyn Kabiling

President Duterte is prepared to exercise his emergency powers to run after rice hoarders if there is an artificial shortage of the commodity in the country.

President Rody Duterte during the VACC Anti-Corruption Summit 2017 at PICC on Tuesday. Photo by Jansen Romero President Rodrigo Duterte (Jansen Romero / MANILA BULLETIN)

The President said he could deploy the military and police to raid warehouses that store hoarded rice as he pledged never to allow Filipinos to "go hungry."

Duterte issued the warning after rejecting calls to sack agriculture and food security officials over the rice supply and price problems in some parts of the country.

"Now, I’m just warning the traders, lalo na ang tiyan ng Pilipino. Do not force me to resort to emergency measure. Because if you do that and time is very limited, I will not allow Filipinos to go hungry," he said during a press conference at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport terminal 2 before leaving for Israel and Jordan.

"If there’s an artificial scheme going around --- I don’t care if it’s really the forces of the market that would agri --- impact on…Pero kung may nakita ako na hoarding, kalokohan, I will not hesitate to exercise the powers of the President. I will ask the military and the police to raid your warehouses, bodegas,” he said.

Duterte warned that authorities could get the hoarded rice “subject of course to just compensation." "I can do that and if, I said, you force me, I will," he added.

The President, meantime, is not inclined to fire Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol and National Food Authority (NFA) officials over the rice problems in some parts of the country.

Duterte said he does not see "any serous offense" committed by the concerned government official but he called for strict enforcement of laws to ensure a stable rice supply.

"You know, all officials including me are bound by laws on the matter --- rice, whatever it is. There are laws to be followed. Maybe the laws are weak or unenforceable. All we have to do is to improve on those laws, not necessarily fire people,” he said.

"And I don’t see any serious offense there. We have not really lost anything except that there’s a --- aberration in the market,” he said.

Some lawmakers have called for the resignation of Piñol and other NFA officials for their alleged incompetence following the reported rice price surge in Zamboanga and nearby areas due to limited supply. The officials have also been criticized for the weevil infestation of its imported rice shipments.