President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Friday said the government no longer wants to wait 15 days for rice importers to prove that grain in their warehouses was legally imported, and wants the validation process cut to seven days.
Speaking during the distribution of smuggled rice that had been seized by the government, Mr. Marcos said rice importers should not be wary of the changes if they are following the legal procedures.
The government has been under pressure to charge rice smugglers and hoarders, following a series of raids on warehouses.
Mr. Marcos said this delay was the result of waiting for the 15 days that the law says an importer has to prove his import shipment is legal.
“We are currently trying to reduce the 15 days to seven days. Because if you are a legal importer, you have all the documents. If asked, you can give them immediately. So why wait 15 days?” the President said in Filipino.
Recently, President Mr. Marcos has certified as urgent a bill defining and penalizing agricultural economic sabotage.
He also ordered various government agencies to strengthen their efforts to locate and halt illegal importation and hoarding of rice.
The Bureau of Customs previously seized 42,180 sacks of rice worth P42 million in Zamboanga, which was distributed to families across the country.
In General Trias, Cavite, Mr. Marcos pledged that his administration would continue the strict monitoring of illegal importation of agricultural products.
He was in Cavite to distribute about 1,200 sacks of seized rice to the identified beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).
Speaking before the 4Ps beneficiaries, Mr. Marcos vowed to exhaust all efforts to stabilize the prices of agricultural commodities, including rice.
The 1,200 sacks of rice was part of the Zamboanga City haul.
The forfeited sacks of rice were donated to the Department of Social Welfare and Development for distribution to the beneficiaries of its conditional cash transfer program.
On Tuesday, Mr. Marcos also distributed 1,500 sacks of rice to 4Ps recipients in Zamboanga City and Zamboanga Sibugay.
He said the rice distribution will continue to make sure recipients have enough supply, as well as to address the adverse impact of smuggling and hoarding.
Also the head of the Department of Agriculture, Mr. Marcos vowed to address the problems besetting the industry by improving the production level and cost of agriculture products.
He also said that he was forced to set price ceilings on regular and well-milled rice to counter smugglers and hoarders who were manipulating the price of rice.
“I was really alarmed. If it were up to me, I don’t want to interfere with the market but the market is not running right because it is being manipulated by hoarders and then by smugglers. That’s why we put a price cap,” he said in Filipino.
Mr. Marcos also vowed to continue pushing for a better agricultural sector.
“We should not stop improving the agricultural sector, improving our harvest, cost of production, and production levels,” he said.
“We need to do all of that, including helping cooperatives and farmers associations with processing so that they can process and sell rice instead of selling palay, and earn more,” he said.
The President cited the new buying price range for unhusked rice or play from farmers, which would help farmers earn more.
Mr. Marcos also said the government plans to distribute bio-fertilizers to support farmer cooperatives and associations instead of the more expensive urea fertilizers.