MALACAÑANG assured the public on Tuesday, April 3, that there is "more than sufficient" supply of rice nationwide amid reports that the National Food Authority's (NFA) rice stockpile has already been consumed in several areas in the country.
Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra said there was no need to worry, as there is no rice shortage in the country despite the dwindling buffer stock of the staple.
"There is no rice shortage," Guevarra said in a text message sent to reporters.
"We all know that there is indeed a low supply of NFA rice, but the overall rice supply is more than sufficient with plenty to spare. No need to panic," he added.
In a television interview, the NFA confirmed that the government-subsidized rice reserve was already wiped out in Metro Manila.
Apart from Metro Manila, the Grain Retailers Confederation of the Philippines reportedly claimed that there were no more stock of affordable rice in Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, and Calabarzon.
In March, the NFA Council ordered the food agency to begin the procurement process to hasten the importation of 250,000 metric tons of rice, following concerns over low supply of cheap staple.
The government is expecting that the 250,000 metric tons of rice will be delivered in May.
Assistant Secretary Jonas Soriano, who is under the supervision of Cabinet Secretary and NFA Council chair Leoncio Evasco Jr., said the council also questioned reports that the stockpile of the government-subsidized rice is depleting.
Soriano said the council sought the Commission on Audit's assessment on NFA operations even before President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office in 2016 to determine as to why there is lack of supply of affordable rice.
"NFA is only a small portion. It's only four or five percent of the overall distribution of rice. Still, the NFA rice is supposed to be used as a buffer stock to ensure there is enough food reserves in times of calamities. So it should not be gone," Soriano said.
"That's why one of the resolutions is to already pursue the independent audit by COA (Commission on Audit) to look at operations of [the NFA] management... so we can establish what are the patterns, why did that happen," he added. (SunStar Philippines)