Vice President Leni Robredo has reiterated her call for action on the issue of rice supply and price hike, after hearing out the urban poor’s concerns over the high prices of rice.
VP Leni visited Barangay 649 in Baseco on Monday morning, where she met with cluster leaders of Kabalikat sa Kaunlaran ng Baseco and officers from the Urban Poor Associates, which helped her office facilitate the meeting. Joining her was Sen. Bam Aquino.
The Vice President also went to check the prices at Baseco’s Corazon Aquino Public Market, where retailers said they haven’t been able to sell rice from the National Food Authority (NFA) for several months already.
During the dialogue, some of the leaders raised concerns over the price hike—with low-grade rice currently selling at about 40 pesos a kilo—as well as the unavailability of NFA Rice, which is patronized by many in the community because of both affordability and decent quality.
“Mahalaga ito[ng pag-uusap na ito] dahil alam namin na kapag tumaas ang presyo ng bigas, iyong mahihirap iyong unang tinatamaan, kasi iyon talaga iyong una nating binibili. Kasi mawala na ang ulam, basta may kanin, ‘di ba? Kaya natatamaan tayo,” she told the urban poor leaders.
The Vice President said learning about the effects of the issue on the poor is heartbreaking, and urged the NFA leadership to come together to address the long-standing problem.
“Kapag consumers na kasi iyong kausap mo, talagang pipigain iyong puso mo,” she said. “Gaya kanina, iyong sinasabi nila, ‘Kung dati kumakain kami ng tatlong beses isang araw, baka ngayon isa na lang.’ Kasi, ayon, sidecar driver lang iyong kaniyang asawa. Talagang halos buong budget… buong budget ng pamilya nasa pagkain. Kapag ganito pang kataas iyong presyo ng bigas, talagang walang kalaban-laban iyong mahihirap.”
“Iyong ating panawagan lang as of now, i-pull na ng NFA management saka ng NFA Council iyong acts together, kasi matagal na itong problemang ito. Hanggang hindi sila nag-aayos at hanggang hindi sila nagkakasundo kung anong gagawin, iyong mahihirap talaga iyong apektado,” she added.
Monday’s dialogue is part of a series of consultations being conducted by the Office of the Vice President, in its bid to craft a proposal on how to address the rice price and supply issue in the country.
VP Leni has conducted a similar visit to Pili Public Market in Camarines Sur, where she spoke with retailers and consumers, including those from the market’s cooperative. A team from the OVP has also met with the local NFA office to discuss the matter.
The Vice President’s office has also gathered representatives from farmer groups to hear their concerns on the issue, notably the lack of support for small farmers.