Duterte plans to buy rice from Sabah
Published on: Thursday, September 13, 2018

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he is considering buying rice from Sabah to address the country's rice supply issues. "Shortages are always there... The economic life of a country cannot be all bed of roses. I have several options. The importation did not stop. If worse comes to worst, I will open Sabah," the President said.

"The rice from Sabah is cheap. If we let the authorities, those from Basilan, those from Jolo or Zamboanga to buy rice there, they can get it at a very low price," he added.

Duterte also expressed willingness to set up barter trade in the area, which is now being administered by Malaysia.

Meanwhile, with the country's rice supply still dwindling, Duterte is also now in search of a new head for the state-run National Food Authority (NFA) after his appointee Jason Aquino requested to be relieved.

In a televised interview with Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, Duterte announced that Aquino has requested to be removed after leading the agency for one year and eight months.

"He says he's tired and he cannot cope with the dynamics inside, which is always ordinary happening, happening in government because we cannot be in agreement all the time," Duterte said, referring to the NFA administrator.

Aquino is being blamed for the lack of rice supply in the market, prompting prices to spike.

Even NFA spokesman Rex Estoperez, who is on leave, has not responded to queries and clarifications.

A source from the NFA, however, said the announcement from the President was unexpected as Aquino has not mentioned any plan to resign from his post.

NFA Deputy Administrator Tomas Escare told a recent House hearing that the grains agency asked the council last October to allow the importation of one million metric tons of rice.

He claimed the Council permitted the NFA to import rice only last May.

NFA Council member and Trade Undersecretary Ruth Castelo countered Escare's claim, saying the approval was delayed because of the NFA's failure to submit information about its inventory. Duterte has claimed that the Philippines has more than enough supply of rice and expressed readiness to order the opening of warehouses to prevent hoarding.

Officials have said the government would open stores selling cheap rice to stabilise prices.


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