After decades of anomalous transactions in the country’s rice importation, Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol, a former journalist from Mindanao, is upping the ante in finally breaking the once impregnable rice smuggling cartel.
What makes this crusade relevant is that it comes at a time when the drive to ferret out the corrupt from their warrens has become the state mantra. The challenge is definitely huge, but for a gutsy guy like Manny, courage is never wanting, a character he displayed when he warded off rebels from his turf when he was M’lang, North Cotabato mayor.
Certain sectors have predictably opposed the decision to defer grains importation as it might have economic ramifications that may help spike local rice prices. The caveat, however, does not make sense and it does not respond to the clamor of farmers to get a better price for their produce.
Rice importation, while an option, only feeds the greed of traders with the wherewithal to manipulate market prices.
In fact, even before Pinol recommended to the President to create a task force to hunt down hoarders, vessels full of imported rice were already readied for unloading after paying their obligations through the banks.
Unfortunately for them, shippers, now having holes in their pockets due to demurrage, have yet to get their import permits. With Piñol putting a tight grip on the smuggler’s faucets, chances are these traders can only blame their miscalculation of the government’s move.
Piñol’s decision to protect the interest of farmers may also put behind bars grains smugglers and hoarders. It likewise sends out a strong message to middlemen that the Duterte administration is willing to cross swords with opportunists in defense of poor peasants.
Verily, it takes a farmer to understand how a farmer feels. This is a philosophy Piñol has unabashedly embraced to correct certain irregular practices that worsen the plight of hapless farmers. Chopping the rice cartel’s head, if finally achieved, will carry many upbeat implications, such as grains supply stability and infusion of more funds and resources from the government to enhance and expand farmlands’ productivity.
Piñol’s campaign to protect the subsistence farmers will surely not earn him a medal from rice manipulators, smugglers and hoarders, but it certainly has earned the appreciation of Filipino farmer who, in the past, were victims of erroneous political decisions. (Johnny Dayang)