Sunday, November 24, 2013

NFA to looters: Share rice to other typhoon victims

by Dino Balabo
NFA warehouse in Malolos City, Bulacan. Photo by Shane Velasco, PIA.

MALOLOS CITY—The National Food Authority (NFA) vowed not to go after to those responsible in looting their warehouse in Alangalang, Leyte last week.

Instead, the food agency called on those involved to share the rice they took from the warehouse with fellow victims of super typhoon Yolanda.

In an interview with Radyo Bulacan yesterday, NFA spokesman Rex Estoperez said that typhoon Yolanda left an extraordinary situation that left some people to do extraordinary steps.

He said that while NFA personnel in Leyte were able to get plate numbers of vehicles like jeeps, pick-up trucks and tricycles used in the looting, they will not file charges.

“Sa mga ganoong pagkakataon, hindi pases na gutom ka ay gagawa ka ng masama, pero ang pakiusap namin sa mga nakakuha, eh i-share na lang sa mga nabiktima rin,” Estoperez said noting that “ito ang panahon ng pagtutulungan.”

Based on records, NFA lost 33,000 bags of rice in the said looting, along with 16,000 bags of rice and another 96,000 bags of palay that got wet during the typhoon.

Estoperez, however , made assurance that despite the above loses, the NFA have enough inventory of rice for calamity stricken areas in Visayas,including in areas like Bohol which was hit by an earthquake, Zamboanga which suffered from an armed conflict and areas in Luzon damaged by typhoon Santi in early October.

The NFA spokesman also said that since November 14, the agency has been releasing an average of 15,000 bags of rice to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for repacking in Manila.

The said volume is in addition to 53,000 bags being re-packed daily in Tacloban City.

NFA will stop releasing rice to DSWD today (Sunday).

With regards to rice supply in the coming weeks, Estoperez said that the NFA Council has approved importation of 500,000 metric tons of rice which is expected to arrive in the country before the end of December.

For next year, he said that an initial 350,000 metric tons of rice will be imported.

He explained that decision if the country will import more rice next year depends on the fourth quarter assessment of rice harvested in the country.

“The NFA will still to decide on whether to import more rice or not for next year,” he said noting that arriving imported rice in December was meant to address needs in calamity stricken areas.

Citing NFA records, Estoperez said that rice producing areas in the country were affected by calamities.

This includes Samar and Leyte provinces which he said produces a third of rice produce in the country.

Other rice producing areas are Cagayan Valley in Region 2, Nueva Ecija and Bulacan in Regon 3, along with provinces in regions 4, and five and areas in Mindanao.