Palace defends Pi?ol amid quit call
Malacanang defended on Thursday Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pi?ol, saying he was just misquoted on the issue of legalized smuggling of rice in Zamboanga.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque issued the statement amid call by some senators and congressmen for his resignation for the rice crisis in Mindanao, particularly in Zamboanga City and island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi (ZamBaSulTa).
"The recommendation of the Department of Agriculture (DA) is to establish a rice trading post where government can collect customs duty on legally imported rice with import permit from the National Food Authority (NFA)," he said.
He also said Pi?ol still enjoys the trust and confidence of President Rodrigo Duterte.
"Unless fired, yes," Roque said when asked if Pi?ol still enjoys trust and confidence of Duterte.
Lawmakers have also been calling for the resignation of NFA head Jason Aquino.
Pinol earlier proposed to have a rice trading center in Tawi-Tawi, citing the rampant rice smuggling in ZamBaSulTa area before.
The government's effort to curb rice smuggling in southern Philippines was one of the reasons why prices of rice went up, according to the DA chief earlier.
The National Food Authority unloaded in Zamboanga City over the weekend government-subsidized rice to lower the cost of the staple.
Zamboanga City previously declared state of calamity as prices of rice increased to as much as P70 per kilo.
The local government of Zamboanga City expressed hope that the price of rice would normalize soon with NFA rice in the market.
"We also understand that the amount of imports to be allowed will be enough to cover the needs of the ZambaSulTa area," Roque said.
"Again, we foresee the rice situation normalizing because the main harvest is beginning to come in by next month," he added. Celerina Monte/DMS