MANILA — Senator Francis Pangilinan on Tuesday questioned inconsistent government data on rice supply, after the economic planning office reported an over-triple increase in distribution while the rice agency announced that rice supply will only last for two days.
Pangilinan, former head of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization (OPAFSAM), made his observations at the public hearing of the Senate Committee on Agriculture on the status of the country’s rice supply.
“At the same time na nagkaroon ng statement na two days na lang ang buffer stock, there is an increase in distribution? How can that be? Kung kulang na ang supply, pero mataas naman ang increase sa merkado ng bigas ng NFA, saan napunta yung 245% volume?” Pangilinan asked, referring to the National Food Authority.
Earlier this month, the NFA, which supplies low-priced rice to the public, released a statement saying that there were only two days’ worth of NFA rice left as they wait for clearance to import.
At the same hearing, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) confirmed that there was, in fact, an increase in market penetration of NFA rice.
NEDA Assistant Secretary Mercedita Sombilla said: “There was a 245% increase in distribution or market penetration in January. And they are saying now that wala na po silang stock?”
Faced with a similar situation four years ago, Pangilinan recalled his experience with handling rising rice prices.
“When we were having a problem with the 2014 rice prices going up, we increased the presence of NFA rice in Metro Manila by as much as 79-80%. Para magstabilize yung rice prices. 79% lang. Yet now that we have a 245% increase, where did it go?” Pangilinan asked.
As OPAFSAM head from May 2014 to October 2015, Pangilinan also headed the NFA Council.