By Zaldy Comanda
BAGUIO CITY – The city government reiterated the need to acquire adequate supply of rice amid ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis after its first request to the National Food Authority (NFA) did not yield positive results.
The city council passed a resolution appealing to the NFA-Benguet Provincial Office (Region I) to increase the rice allocation for the city to ensure that the needs of its constituents are met during the ongoing community quarantine.
They requested the agency to allow the different barangays of the city to purchase rice based on the needs of their residents.
NFA-Benguet Provincial Manager Cecilia Concubierta said stocks acquired from the different sources of rice were limited, and this was the reason the agency could no longer cater to the barangays.
Concubierta said that their office catered to 26 barangays in the city, delivering a total of 760 sacks in addition to the 3,760 sacks previously purchased by the local government since March 18.
In the earlier request, the city council noted Republic Act No. 11203 (An Act Liberalizing the Importation, Exportation and Trading of rice, Lifting for the Purpose the Quantitative Import Restriction on Rice, and for Other Purposes) which mandates the NFA “to maintain sufficient level of rice buffer stocks to be sourced locally, intended primarily for emergency, disaster, or calamity operations.”
While recognizing the NFA’s mandate on buffer stocking pursuant to RA 11203, Concubierta explained that the sale of rice to the barangays was suspended because inventory had started to run low.
She further explained that their office was giving priority to the relief agencies, such as the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the provincial governments, and municipalities, in the allocation of rice.
She said, “palay” inventories showed there was sufficient amount of rice to be obtained from various provinces of Region I which is the source of rice stocks of Benguet.
However, problems in rice processing arose “due to the inability of the contracted private millers’ workers to report to work” in light of the travel ban on mass transport, stringent restrictions in checkpoints, and curfews, among others amidst the Luzon-wide community quarantine resulting in low rice production.
“It is our understanding that the rice purchased by the DSWD and the city government of Baguio will also be distributed to the barangays. Nevertheless, we will allow their purchases once we accumulate sufficient stocks,” she said.