MANILA - The alleged shortage in government-subsidized rice is mere "tsismis" or rumor, Senator Cynthia Villar said Monday, contrary to the statement of her colleague Senator Nancy Binay.
Binay said over the weekend that a supposed shortage of the grain from the National Food Administration in the market has forced consumers to buy more expensive commercial rice.
The NFA is mandated to avoid rice shortages by importing or buying from local farmers, said Villar, who chairs the Senate agriculture and food committee.
Reports of a supposed shortage in NFA rice can be traced to smugglers or cartels that hope to create artificial demand and drive prices up, she said.
"Kapag ang tao natatakot, nagso-stock sila, pagkatapos tataas ang demand at ang presyo," Villar told reporters.
(When people get scared, they would stock up on rice, which would increase demand and prices.)
"Nagtataka ako na napakalinaw ng mandate (ng NFA), bakit nagkakatsismis. Minsan 'yung tsismis 'di na pinakikinggan."
(I'm wondering why these reports abound when the NFA has a clear mandate. Sometimes gossip should just be ignored.)
Villar said rumors of an NFA rice shortage could also be perpetrated by rice retailers who cite the tax reform law as an excuse to raise prices.
Tax reform hardly has an impact on agriculture although it may affect transportation costs, which account for 5 percent of the price of crops, she said.
Villar said she would call for a Senate investigation on price surges and the alleged rice shortage this week.
Report from Anjo Bagaoisan, ABS-CBN News