MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Tuesday led the distribution of around 1,500 sacks of confiscated imported rice to beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) during his visit to the National Food Authority (NFA) warehouse in Zamboanga City.
The sacks of rice distributed to 4Ps beneficiaries were part of the 42,180 sacks of imported rice confiscated by the Bureau of Customs’ (BOC) warehouse raid in Barangay San Jose Gusu in Zamboanga City, according to a statement posted on the official Facebook page of Radio Television Malacañang (RTVM).
Based on RTVM’s Facebook post, the smuggled rice would be turned over to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for distribution to its beneficiaries in Zamboanga Peninsula.
Marcos said the government pushed through with the donation of the forfeited sacks of rice after the warehouse owner failed to make an explanation on the importation process.
“Natapos na po ang 15 days. Hindi po sila makasagot kaya kinuha na namin, kinuha na ng gobyerno, kinuha na ng Customs at ginawang donation sa DSWD at gagawing donation ng DSWD at ng gobyerno sa inyo (The 15 days [given to them to explain] already lapsed. They couldn't answer so we confiscated it, the government took it, the Customs took it and donated it to the DSWD and the DSWD and the government will donate it to you),” he said in his speech.
“Ito po ang gobyerno ninyo. Nandito po kaming lahat at ginagawa po namin lahat upang makatulong na maging maganda ang inyong mga buhay. Kahit tayo’y dumadaan sa kahirapan, nandito ang gobyerno ninyo upang tumulong (This is your government. We are all here and we are doing everything to help make your lives better. Even though we are going through hardship, your government is here to help),” Marcos added.
Marcos said the government, through the National Food Authority (NFA), would boost the rice supply to stabilize the prices of the staple.
He also assured the farmers of the government interventions to help them boost their income and address their concerns on the implementation of the mandated rice price ceilings.
“Dapat pagandahin ang production ng mga magsasaka. Lagi kong pinapapaalala sa lahat ng mga kasamahan ko, hindi lamang kailangan na may sapat na pagkain. Kailangan may presyo na kayang bilhin ng taumbayan, unang-una. Pangalawa, na may magandang hanapbuhay naman ang ating mga magsasaka (Farmers' production should be improved. I always remind them that it's not enough that we have sufficient food. First of all, the price should be affordable for the public. Second, our farmers should have a good livelihood),” Marcos said.
Other officials present during the distribution of rice were DSWD Secretary Rex Gatchalian, NFA Administrator Roderico Bioco, BOC Deputy Commissioner Vener Baquiran, Philippine Air Force Brig. Gen. Dennis Estrella, and Army Maj. Gen. Antonio Nafarrete.
“Kaya iyan ang tinitiyak natin at titignan po natin habang tumatakbo ang panahon na papaano na ang magiging pangangailangan ng ating mga kababayan para naman ay hindi natin masasabi na ginutom na ang mga Pilipino dahil hindi sapat ang bigas (So that is what we are ensuring and we will see as time goes by how the needs of our countrymen will be so that we cannot say that the Filipinos are starving because there is not enough rice).”
Apart from the rice distribution, Marcos also led the turnover of PHP6.72 million worth of Department of Agriculture (DA)-Philippine Rural Development Project Investment for Rural Enterprises and Agricultural and Fisheries Productivity (DA-PRDP); PHP11.84 million worth of DA-PRDP I-REAP; and PHP1.5 million worth of DA Kadiwa Financial Grant (Hauling Vehicle), Communications Secretary Cheloy Garafil said in a statement.
Garafil said Marcos also distributed PHP1 million worth of DA Kadiwa Financial Grant (trading capital); PHP1.5 million worth of DA Kadiwa Financial Grant (vehicle and working capital); PHP59,043 worth of Assistance Certificate from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR): PHP76,620 worth of Mackerel Drift Gillnet; and PHP4,000 worth of eight rolls-PE Rope No. 10mm.
Marcos likewise led the distribution of PHP120 million worth of assistance under the “Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantages/Displaced Workers” of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and PHP530,000 worth of DOLE livelihood assistance.
Meanwhile, Gatchalian said the rice distribution would serve as a kick-off as the more than 42,000 bags of Jasmine rice seized by the BOC have been donated to the DSWD.
“We expect more than 42,000 poorest Filipinos to benefit from the seized rice by the BOC, which is in line with the President’s directive to crack down on rice smugglers and hoarders,” he said in a statement.
According to DSWD Undersecretary for Operations Group Josefina Romualdez, the 1,500 beneficiaries in Zamboanga City are part of the list of 5,000 “poorest of the poor” prepared by DSWD-9 (Zamboanga Peninsula) in the first batch of recipients who will each receive 25 kg. of the high-grade fragrant white rice.
“There will also be simultaneous distribution to beneficiaries in the municipalities of Tungawan and Sibuco,” she said.
The BOC, meanwhile, said the move is in compliance with the President's marching orders to go after hoarders and illegal importers of rice.
On the other hand, Sen. Francis Tolentino said Marcos’ "commendable decision” to distribute confiscated rice must not be taken by rice smugglers and hoarders and as a “get out of jail pass.”
“The forfeiture of rice should not lead to the dropping of charges against smugglers. Otherwise, they will just repeat it again, but this time, with the greater motivation of recouping what they have lost,” Tolentino said in a statement. (With additional reports from Zaldy De Layola, Wilnard Bacelonia and Ferdinand Patinio/PNA)