MANILA -- Record inflation last year was due to a "policy failure" on rice, former trade secretary Mar Roxas, who is running for the Senate, said Tuesday.
The government should have imported rice earlier to avoid price spikes in the staple grain, which could have ripple effect on other commodities, Roxas said.
While helping farmers grow rice and providing them with post-harvest facilities is like "prevention," rice importation is a "cure," he said.
"It’s policy failure. Let’s remove it from the economy, let’s say it’s a patient. Kung lumala ang sakit ng pasyente, baka mali ang rekomendasyon ng doctor, mali ang gamot," he told ANC's Headstart.
(It’s policy failure. Let’s remove it from the economy, let’s say it’s a patient. If a patient's illness worsens, perhaps the doctor's recommendation was wrong, the medicine was wrong.)
"If there is a failure in the crop, then you have to be agile, you have to see it right away and you bring in the rice so that the urban who don’t grow rice are not damaged by the high prices," he said.
Inflation slowed to 4.4 percent in January, moving closer to the government's 2 to 4 percent target. It peaked in 2018 at near 10-year highs.
Counter-inflation measures by government include pushing for tariffs on rice instead of import quotas to bring prices down.
Roxas said he was against calls for the Philippines import all its rice needs.
A city in sugar-producing Negros region produces an average of 6 to 8 tons of palay per hectare in its 30,000 hectare rice plantation because there is "proper support," he said.
"Before we give up on the farmer, before we say hindi talaga natin kayang pakainin ang sarili natin, let’s give it our all," he said.
(Before we give up on the farmer, before we say we really cannot feed ourselves, let's give it our all.)