BUKIDNON Representative Teofisto Guingona III questioned Wednesday the government’s move approving the importation of rice.

Guingona criticized the importation by the National Food Authority (NFA) and public traders of about 200,000 to 250,000 metric tons (MT) of rice in the middle of the ongoing El Niño that could reduce agricultural output.

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In an emailed statement, Guingona said this would bring total imports this year to 2.45 million tons, surpassing the recorded 2.3 million tons Manila bought in 2008 which helped send world prices to record high.

“Why does the government insists on importing rice? Why import when we should be strengthening the rice production and helping our framers? The fact is some officials are getting kickbacks from the distribution of fertilizers and construction of irrigation systems. Remember JocJoc,” Guingona said.

He added that the state of the country’s agriculture sector is worsened by graft and corruption.

“They are using the rice shortage as a justification to import rice which provides more opportunities for corruption. Worse, these importations add to the swelling national debt. As a result, millions of Filipinos go hungry and the country continues to suffer,” Guingona stated.