Duterte warns of using emergency measures vs rice hoarders
President Rodrigo Duterte warned on Sunday rice hoarders not to force him to resort to emergency measures in light of the rising prices of rice in some places in Mindanao.
"Now, I'm just warning the traders...do not force me to resort to emergency measure. Because if you do that and time is limited, I will not allow Filipinos to go hungry," the Chief Executive said in a press conference at the airport prior to his departure for Israel and Jordan.
He said that if he could see hoarding or artificial scheme to further increase the prices of rice, "I will not hesitate to exercise the powers of the President."
Duterte said he would ask the military and the police to raid the warehouses.
"I will just get your (stocks), subject, of course, to just compensation," he said.
The President also refused to support the call by some lawmakers for Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol and National Food Authority Administrator Jason Aquino to resign amid the the spiralling prices of rice, particularly in Zamboanga City and nearby island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.
"You know, all officials including me are bound by laws on the matter - rice, whatever it is. There are laws to be followed. May be the laws are weak or unenforceable. All we have to do is improve on those laws, not necessarily fire people," he said.
He said he did not see any serious offense made by Pinol nor Aquino.
"We have not really lost anything except that there's (an) aberation in the market," Duterte added.
Zamboanga City has declared a state of calamity due to the rising prices of rice, which reached to as much as P70 per kilo. Similar hefty increase in the rice prices was also reported in the island provinces.
The NFA, however, has already downloaded government-subsidized rice in those areas in Mindanao to stabilize the rice prices.
Duterte also stressed that rice smuggling would not be tolerated as it is "destructive to the economy."
"You’d put down on the market in turmoil. Smuggled rice unrestrained, that would promote disorder in this country," he said.
The President said the government may instead import more rice and sell it at a lower price.
"We can lose but not allow smuggling in this country," he said, adding that those confiscated smuggled rice could be distributed free or "go down to the last prevailing market prices." Celerina Monte/DMS