Tuesday, 8 April 2008

President Arroyo reports on government action to address rice problem

President Arroyo's Opening Statement During the Live Reports from the Field of Palay Harvest at the NAPC-NEDA Cabinet Meeting

Mga kababayan:

Our near-term objective is to focus on putting food on the table for our people. The global rise in the price of basic commodities like fuel and rice is putting a strain on all hardworking Filipinos, particularly on our very poor.

We aim to prevent these strains on individuals and their families from becoming a crisis by taking decisive action. Concerning rice, it is essential for the people of the nation understand what the situation exactly is and what we are doing about it. It would be unfortunate if panic overtook logic, for we will endure and survive this moment and come through it stronger. In the meantime, however, it will take unity and hard work. Gaya ng dalangin natin, kailangan magtulungan tayong lahat upang mailahad ang pagkain sa bawat mesa. We must all pull together including the government, the private sector, civil society and our faith community to help the poor and see us through this challenging time.

Overall, our strengthened economic situation gives us the ability and flexibility to respond forcefully to make sure we maintain control of the situation. Specific to the rice issue, we have an Action Plan comprising of three phases to make sure our rice situation remains stable: First, is to secure supply; second, to ensure proper distribution; third, is to guarantee enforcement of laws to protect our people against gouging and corruption.

We can report that our supply is secure for the foreseeable future. Our program of fertilizers, irrigation and infrastructure, equipment, education and expansion, loans, dryers and post-harvest facilities and seeds have allowed us to increase our rice production by more than the population growth rate of 2.04 percent. And as far as the historical gap between production and consumption in our country, 500,000 metric tons (70 percent from Vietnam, 30 percent from Thailand) have arrived. Seven hundred thousand metric tons are arriving in April, May and June (at least 80 percent from Vietnam, the balance from Thailand and about 30,000 metric tons from Pakistan). There is a public bidding on April 17 for 500,000 metric tons arriving in May, June and July. Another bidding is set in May for rice deliveries in June, July and August for the balance of 500,000 metric tons.

Ihaharap ngayon sa Gabinete ang ulat ng Kagawaran ng Pagsasaka tungkol sa sitwasyon sa bigas at mga pagkilos natin upang madala ang ating inaani ngayon mula sa bukid patungo sa merkado nang walang labis na gastos at pagka-antala.

Concerning distribution, the government is sparing no effort to ensure that our supplies of rice get from the source to the tables of Filipinos throughout our nation. But to improve the ability of government to deliver rice to those most in need, we are going to enlist the aid of the faith-based community -- our churches and mosques -- to bring relief to our poor in terms of essential supplies of rice and other basic commodities. We are also harnessing the power of our government to use our schools, where it is needed most, to deliver rice to our poorest children, for they must not be hungry. They must remain healthy and strong and ready to get the education that will ensure their future and the future of our country.

Concerning enforcement of laws against gouging and corruption, we have already taken steps to protect our consumers from rice bandits and unscrupulous traders who would hold our citizens hostage to their own selfish and corrupt practices. Those who seek to take advantage of our people must be stopped. I am leading the charge to crack down on any form of corruption by public and private officials who would divert supplies or pervert the price of this essential commodity in any way.

Anyone caught stealing rice from the people, we will seek to throw in jail. In order to reinforce this, we will be submitting a Consumers Bill of Rights to Congress that will help strengthen the protection and defense of consumers while strengthening penalties against those individuals or entities that abuse the right of our people to this basic commodity.

Sa lahat ng mga pagsisikap nating ito, pinakamahalaga ang pagtutulungan at pagkakaisa, gaya ng ating dalangin kanina. Magkapit-bisig tayo para sa kaunlaran at laban sa kahirapan.

Maraming salamat at pagpalain nawa tayo ng Poong Maykapal.

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