Defeated presidential candidate offers Duterte advice on rice crisis

Former presidential candidate Manuel “Mar” Roxas II has led a quiet life since he lost to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in the 2016 elections. But yesterday, he emerged on social media to give Duterte unsolicited advice on how the rice crisis could be solved.

In a lengthy Facebook post, Roxas wrote: “Only a massive and immediate additional supply of rice can bring down prices to affordable levels.”

Roxas is referring to the currently sky-high price of rice in the country. Based on data reported by the Philippine Statistics Authority last month, the price of rice has risen steadily for the past eight months. This happened even if the country continues to import rice.

But Duterte denies the existence of a crisis — in his nationally broadcast chat with his legal counsel Salvador Panelo, he called the problem an “artificial [crisis]” due to “man-made [price] manipulation.”

Duterte also mentioned that he would remove the chairman of the National Food Authority (NFA) Jason Aquino upon the latter’s request. Aquino allegedly told the president that he couldn’t cope with the NFA’s problems.

The NFA is a government agency responsible for ensuring that the Philippines has a stable supply of rice.

Roxas suggested that the NFA’s Minimum Access Volume cap “be increased to 1.5 million metric tons.”

He also wrote that the NFA should allow “any and all in the private sector to import rice.”

The Minimum Access Volume (MAV) scheme was opened by the government in 2015 to private companies so they could import rice with a lower tariff. Roxas is suggesting the government, through the NFA, allow more private companies to import rice to add to the country’s supply (which could possibly lower the grains’ price).

At present, the current MAV cap is 805,000 metric tons, according to Rappler.

Roxas also suggested that Duterte tell fast-food companies such as Jollibee, McDonald’s, Mang Inasal, department store SM, grocery and supermarket chains, as well as other large retailers to “independently source and import their own needs so that they will no longer get rice from the national stockpile.”

He also asked the president to repeal the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Law (TRAIN), which has been blamed as the cause of the country’s high inflation rate.

He also suggested that the government promote industrialized farming, which relies on the heavy use of pesticides and fertilizers.

Roxas’ post has gone viral and has been shared more than 2,700 times.

Roxas comes from a renowned political family. He’s the grandson of former president Manuel Roxas and the son of former senator Gerry Roxas. During the presidency of Benigno Aquino III, he served as the secretary of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) from 2011 – 2012 and the secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) from 2012 – 2015. 

However, Roxas was heavily criticized by some netizens for his alleged failure to solve problems when he was still working in the government.

Facebook Ivy Feldmann wrote: “Well said, but you could have also done it a long time ago….(Yolanda) remember….”

Roxas and former president Aquino were heavily criticized for allegedly mismanaging the rehabilitation of Leyte after it was destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan (local name Yolanda) in 2013.

The mayor of Tacloban, Leyte Alfred Romualdez said Roxas, then the secretary of the DILG, failed to send help during the typhoon’s aftermath.

A netizen using the name Kuya Chef wrote: “ …[I]f I can only post pictures here of the ‘shanties’ they built for Yolanda victims..despite HUGE funding..”

Negros Occidental Congressperson Alfredo Benitez said last year that there were irregularities in the construction of homes for the survivors of Haiyan and that the government used sub-par construction materials.

ABS-CBN News has published photos of the permanent housing built for Haiyan’s survivors in 2016 which are small but are far from looking like shanties.

Len de David disagreed with the other netizens and wrote that the country needs Roxas.

Wrote Ve Bo Generalao: “We were also waiting for your detailed solution outline in the DOTr when you were the Transportation secretary but you resolved nothing.

Generalao is referring to Roxas’ performance at the DOTC, now known as the Department of Transport (DOTr).

Do you agree with Roxas’ advice? Let us know by commenting below or tweeting to @CoconutsManila.

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