By Genalyn Kabiling
The country’s irrigation systems must be further improved to help boost the rice production in the country, Malacañang said Tuesday amid reports the Philippines could become the world’s biggest rice importer this year.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo acknowledged that the country has a problem with poor irrigation in farmlands, which must be efficiently addressed.
“Ever since ‘yan ang naging problema. Marami tayong rice land pero hindi pumapasok ‘yung mga tubig. Kaya we had to—we really have to improve more on our irrigation system para maganda ang production [Ever since that has been the problem. We have lots of ricelands but the water do not reach them. We really have to improve more on our irrigation system for better production],” he said during a Palace press briefing.
“Yun ang problema ng rice production, kasi kung walang irrigation, papaano ka magpo-produce ng rice – walang tubig [That’s the problem in rice production. If there is no irrigation, who can produce rice? There’s no water],” he added.
He noted that President Duterte has already signed a law that subsidizes irrigation for local farmers.
When informed about the impact of rice tarrification law on local rice production, he said they expect Agriculture Secretary William Dar to take other measures “to solve whatever problems in the agriculture industry.”
“Secretary Dar has been appointed there precisely because he used to head that department and he was successful during his stint. So, he would be knowledgeable on how to curb whatever problems are existing today,” he said.
A US Department of Agriculture report stated that the Philippines is projected to become the world’s largest importer of rice following a policy that replaces rice import quotas with tariff. The Philippines is reportedly projected to import 3 million metric tons this year, compared to China’s 2.5 million MT imports.
Panelo initially welcomed the news but modified his statement when he learned the country was a huge rice importer.
He admitted that the country could not yet be fully rice self-sufficient.
“Congratulations to us!” Panelo said.
When reporters informed him that was about rice imports, Panelo said: “Ah, pag-import. Akala ko nag-export… akala ko export. Well, eh kung hindi pa natin kaya eh, ganiyan talaga.”