PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Friday, October 12, expressed hope that Agriculture Secretary Emmanue Piñol will find measures to address the rice crisis in the country.
Duterte made the remark, as he reiterated that the country is unlikely to become self-sufficient in rice production "in the years to come."
The President, nevertheless, remained optimistic that the Agriculture chief would look for ways to ensure that Filipinos would not experience hunger.
"The policy of the government is to keep the people, keep them away from hunger. So we have to import, whether we like it or not. And we have to plan. But frankly, I do not think that we will be rice sufficient. I don't know if [it will happen] in the years to come," Duterte said upon his arrival in Davao City from his overseas trip.
"In the Philippines, frankly, the weakest list sa ating (in our) economy is the agricultural sector. We can only hope that i-balance mo talaga iyan. That's the job of Piñol. And I hope he will do his homework well in the years to come," he added.
In a Cabinet meeting held October 8, Duterte approved the "unimpeded" rice imports in the country, as faster increases in prices of food and non-alcoholic beverages pushed the country's headline inflation rate to 6.7 percent in September.
Duterte's latest directive relaxes restrictions on rice importation and allows traders to import additional volumes of the crop, as long as they pay the tariffs.
The President reiterated that he wants enough rice supply.
"As I have said in the Cabinet meeting, I thought that problem would never confront me. So that early on, I appointed people, precisely to meet the challenges of rice shortage," he said. "And I said, look, if your inventory is that high, you make it up there." (SunStar Philippines)