MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday said he has ordered the Department of Agriculture to suspend the importation of rice.
Speaking to reporters, Duterte said he has ordered Agriculture Sec. William Dar to suspend the importation of rice because it is currently harvest season for local rice.
He also said rice importation was necessary to ensure the steady supply of rice in the country.
"Ang problema, hindi ka kasi makaasa dito sa producers. Magsabi sila, makatanim kami, ma-harvest lang namin, we can fill up two-thirds or one-third of the requirement. Correct, 'yan ang sabi mo, pero hindi mo alam ang sitwasyon ng mundo mo," Duterte said.
Duterte said he is willing to spend government funds to support local farmers.
"Kung gusto talaga natin walang problema, bilihin lahat ng produce ng producer-farmers. Bilhin. Ngayon mahal, farm gate nila, babawi sila, hindi na bale, gagastos tayo, bilyon, bilhin natin," he said.
"Palugi tayo, para 'yung mga farmers, may resulta sa pawis nila. Sinong nalugi? Wala, tayong mga Filipino. Bibilhin natin lahat 'yan. Tapos dagdagan natin kasi kulang talaga," Duterte added.
He said he will ask Congress and Dar to appropriate money to be used to buy rice from local farmers.
"You appropriate money and we will buy all the rice, farm gate price, from the farmers. Mag-import tayo as buffer," Duterte said.
Duterte, however, said he cannot stop tariffication.
"What is the other remedy? Nothing. I cannot stop tariffication. Why? To erase corruption," he said.
Duterte earlier apologized to local rice farmers over low prices of the grain but insisted that the Philippines needed to import rice.
Duterte explained that he would not repeal the rice tariffication law since doing so might result in a "food crisis."
The government pushed for tariffs in place of import quotas under the Rice Tariffication Law last year to bring down prices as the cost of the staple pushed inflation to near 10-year highs.
Rice farmers complained that the law caused a drop in prices of the staple grain due to a deluge of imported rice.
The government is set to release a total of P3 billion to some 600,000 rice farmers affected by low prices of the staple grain.
The aid, at P5,000 per farmer, will be released before Dar earlier said.