MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte apologized to local rice farmers over low prices of the grain but insisted that the Philippines needed to import the staple.
Duterte explained that he would not repeal the rice tariffication law since doing so might result in a "food crisis."
“Ang sinasabi ko lang sa taumbayan is that do not despair. We can always correct the wrong. I apologize to you if the result we wanted to get during the early days of my administration has been well, delayed or not good, not to your expectations," Duterte said in an exclusive interview with ABS-CBN News' Ted Failon.
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 President said he would meet with the farmers to "resolve" their problems.
"If I can’t help you, then I have no business being here. I have the goal, I will immediately do something about it,” he said.
“I will ask my office to arrange for a meeting with them. If it’s possible to get them to one place so that I will listen and I will resolve the problem,” he added.
Duterte also promised farmers that he would visit rice fields across the country to see rice growers' situation as well as inspect equipment from the government.