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Duterte to issue order allowing food imports
By Manolo B. Jara September 14, 2018
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MANILA: President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte is set to issue an executive order allowing the importation of basic food items like rice, fish, sugar meat and vegetables whose soaring prices have drawn protests especially from many Filipinos, according to a Malacanang Palace official.

Harry Roque, the presidential spokesman, said the order aims to remove the administrative and non-tariff barriers on the importation of basic commodities to cushion the impact of inflation on these goods.

“This only means the process of importing food will be simpler,” Roque said, adding the order was being prepared by Duterte’s economic managers who agreed on its issuance during their Cabinet meeting at Malacanang Palace on Tuesday.

Roque also downplayed criticisms blaming the Duterte administration for the 6.4 rise in the inflation rate in August, considered the highest in almost 10 years that saw the prices of basic food items soaring beyond the reach especially of poor Filipinos. But even before Duterte could issue the order, agrarian reform beneficiaries and producers from Negros Occidental province in the Visayas protested the inclusion of sugar in the importation of basic goods.

“This plan to allow open importation of sugar will depress sugar prices again and we may not be able to survive crisis,” warned Enrique Tayo, the chairman of the Negros Occidental Federation of Farmers Association.

Tayo disclosed there are over 100,000 agrarian reform beneficiaries in the province, one of country’s major sugar producers, are still slowly recovering from the huge loss the industry incurred in the last two years. Officials admitted that the top contributors to inflation included tobacco, fish and seafood, vegetables, transport, non-alcoholic drinks, electricity and fuel, rice and house rentals.

In particular, protests were particularly aimed at rice, the staple food of of most of the 120 million Filipinos, whose lack in the public markets, has forced them including the elderly to rise and line up as early as dawn daily so they could buy the cereal from stalls selling cheap imported government rice. Roque, however, assured the country has enough rice, saying that 4.6 million sacks of rice at the government-run National Food Agency (NFA) warehouses would be released immediately.

In addition, about two million sacks of imported rice are to arrive before the end of September and that the NFA Council has approved the importation five million more sacks that are to be available in the markets within the next two months, Roque said.

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