|President Rodrigo Roa Duterte holds a press conference at the Malacañan Palace on November 19, 2019. VALERIE ESCALERA/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO|
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte said Tuesday the government would temporarily halt rice importations during the local palay harvest season to protect the livelihood of the Filipino farmers from the entry of the imported staple.
In the press conference on Tuesday night in Malacanang, President Duterte said he has directed Agriculture Secretary William Dar to suspend rice importations to shield the livelihood of Filipino farmers.
Although the government will temporarily stop rice importations, the President said he can’t scrap the Rice Tariffication Law altogether because the country needs imported rice to fill its stock and to fend off corruption.
“Ang problema, itong kumakain, marami masyado na itong si producer, ang tanim niya kulang up until harvest time. Magkulang talaga ang supply. So kung panahon kung wala na, kung hindi ako mag-import kagaya nung nangyari, wala na,” President Duterte said.
“Ngayon, sabi ko ‘pag harvest time, huwag, tutal seasonal naman talaga ‘yan. Ang problema hindi ka kasi makaasa dito sa mga producers.”
Palay production nowadays, he said, becomes problematic, which has been exacerbated by climate change that posed more challenges to farmers.
“Pero hindi mo alam ang sitwasyon ng mundo mo lalo na sa climate change ngayon na ang tanim mo baka aabot talaga ng harvest time o ‘yung tanim mo warakin ng mga bagyo,” he added.
Despite the stumbling blocks, President Duterte expressed his administration’s willingness to assist domestic rice producers reiterating his proposal to buy all locally produced palay for the benefit of Filipino farmers.
“Ang simple niyan. Ganito. Kung gusto talaga natin walang problema, bilihin lahat ng produce ng producer — farmers. Bilihin. Ngayon, mahal. Farmgate nila.”
“Babawi sila. Hindi na bale. Gagastos tayo bilyon? Bilihin natin. Tapos wala, palugi tayo para ‘yung mga farmers may resulta sa pawis nila. Sinong nalugi? Wala. Tayong Pilipino. Bilihin natin lahat ‘yan tapos dagdagan natin kasi kulang talaga,” he argued.
He called on Congress to allocate money for the National Food Authority’s (NFA) palay procurements.
Electronic cigarettes ban
Meanwhile, President Duterte ordered a ban on the use and importation of electronic cigarettes or vapes in the country citing its threat to public health. He instructed concerned government agencies to arrest people who will violate the ban.
“Because it is toxic. And the government has the power to issue measures to protect public health and public interest,” he said of the reason for carrying out the ban.
“You know, ang cigarette, they confirm chemical there that’s not good for humans. It’s deadly, it’s nicotine. It’s a…induces a habit…and it is toxic, and it kills people.”
Recently, the Department of Health confirmed that a 16-year-old girl from Visayas was reported to have the first case of electronic cigarette or vaping-associated lung injury (EVALI) in the country after using vape for six months.
E-cigarettes, he said, are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and equally dangerous as smoking.
“And if you are smoking now, you will be arrested. I am banning the importation so Customs, you listen to it. You… I’m banning it altogether,” he reiterated.
The Chief Executive said he would issue an executive order as soon as possible but he does not need one in the meantime for the ban to take effect immediately.