Rice tale PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 27 August 2018 14:41

BEHIND  THE  LINES

BY BOB JALDON

Agriculture Secretary Manny Pinol, a former sports writer, hit the nail on the head squarely: Zamboanga has always depended on smuggled rice clandestinely boated in our port from Malaysia that has kept the prices of this staple stable. We ate from the big bowl, so to speak, for decades because Zamboanguenos love sweet-smelling, tasty imported rice. The recent seizures of tones of rice has destabilized prices, so that 150,000 bags of NFA rice had to be shipped here and distributed in the barangays at P27 per kilo.

That agricultural emergency help is manna, not Manny, from heaven. It wasn’t necessarily a windfall but a temporary relief to medicate our delirious state for at least three weeks — until the smugglers’ next shipment. The old adage about an apple a day will keep the doctor away is baloney because we need rice, not waxed apple, to keep us alive. Health and rice are connected and something that we shouldn’t trifle with, least of all by the government which is constitutionally mandated to protect its citizens from crises.

When Ferdinand E. Marcos rose from the senate presidency as a Liberal to become president as a Nacionalista (he was a turncoat just like most politicians now), he industrialized the country, thus converting agricultural  lands into industrial parks. How many arable lands do we have now for a dwindling labor force (farmers). May we know the figures from DA asst. RD Melba B. Wee?

The present government policy, if I’m not mistaken, is to develop a diversified rural (meaning, the countryside) community where there will be an aggressive development of agriculture, forestry, animal husbandry, sideline production and fishery. But, then again, it is cheaper to import rice, corn and vegetables than to develop our farmlands (in La Paz). The smuggling of rice produces miracles, for the staple is sold cheap and the stocks are aplenty in Chinese bodegas.

The Marcos government paid attention to capital construction, investing heavily on infrastructure and building factories. El Presidente is investing billions of yuan for his “Build, Build, Build” program. Will this achieve his desired economic results — like creating jobs, strengthening the economy through new businesses while making full use of existing enterprises with great potentials?

New energy resources, transportation and communications and other key enterprises are being introduced to better our economy, hopefully. We read this in newspapers as they emanate from Malacanang and Davao. In the interregnum, do we see politics directed at stabilizing the price of rice now and in the future? Sus madre, I dread to see the day that a kilo of rice would reach P90.

Our consumption of rice is getting bigger, thanks to the migrants from other provinces. And, yes, the number of diabetics if also growing because of too much intake of carbohydrates. The rice shortage situation must be remedied, pronto!

We are all eating from the big rice pot. It doesn’t matter whether you’re rich or poor. We gotta eat! Dried fish and sardines go well with rice. The government must adopt a system of distribution whereby rice is allocated proportionately to forestall rice shortage. It is a responsibility system that combines the interest of the state, the merchants and the people.