Thursday, March 27, 2008

PhilRice debunks reports of rice shortage

It's a jigsaw puzzle as to why the Philippines continues to import rice from neighboring countries like Thailand and Vietnam. I understand that farmers in these two neighboring countries are being supported by their governments. This is in stark contrast to that of the Philippines where the local farmers are left to fend for themselves.

Farm inputs like fertilizers are not subsidized by the government so that many poor farmers are left with no choice but to borrow money from usurers in order to catch up with the farming season, which normally comes twice a year in provinces where ricefields largely depend on rainfed water, rather than the irrigation system. While some agriculture officials are hell bent on sticking to their earlier stance that the country needs to import millions of tons of rice due to rice shortage, officials at the Philippine Rice Institute in Nueva Ecija were on the opposite side of the coin. They said there is no rice
shortage in actual terms.

The primary reason why the Philippines did not produce so much rice is because some of the farmers had ventured into other crops. Although, PhilRice did not discount the possibility that some of the lands formerly planted to rice were converted into big housing projects, which is true in some parts of the Calabarzon Area. For example, the area where the famous Brent International School in Binan, Laguna, was once a ricefield. Now its neighboring area was transformed into a posh subdivision, where Filipino international boxer Manny Pacquiao has bought a house so that his children at Brent will be close to home.

Unlike other Asian countries, the Philippines is only popular when it comes to politics. But helping farmers so that the country can be self-sufficient in rice is not in the government officials' vocabulary. What makes matters worse is that one of the top agriculture officials is married to the daughter of one of the biggest rice importers in the country. The family used to own the popular Uniwide Sales that was burned in Cubao, Quezon City, many years ago. If we try to take a cursory look at it, isn't this what we can call conflict of interest?

If I were that agriculture official, I would immediately step down. But it seems this attitude is already common in the country's governance. Most of those in government have fungus faces. In the world, the Philippines is the only country whose government officials are known to be insensitive and callous in character and dignity. I really don't understand why many government officials are afraid to relinquish their post, once they are mired in anomalous controversies?

They think that these people have exclusive entitlement to their positions and that others don't. Once somebody is appointed to a certain position, he would wait until the leader orders him to vacate the post. For me, I consider that person lacking in tact. And I doubt it if some of our government officials will ever learn to accept the tenets of honesty because some of them have been eaten by a rotten political system
so that they need at least intensive rehabilitation to regain back their sense of lost values taught them at exclusive catholic schools.

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