Monday, March 31, 2008

The True Cost of Rice...For Some

For weeks now there has been much talk about a looming global rice crisis and the Philippines, despite having vast agricultural lands, is also busy importing rice from countries like Vietnam in an attempt to address this problem.

Just this morning, I hear this news that the NFA provincial manager for North Cotabato has been relieved of his duties and reassigned (take note, reassigned) somewhere in Zamboanga. It seems that the said provincial manager allowed private retailers to purchase 14,000 bags/sacks of rice that are intended for distribution to local NFA accredited dealers. One could just imagine how this happened. How did 14,000 bags/sacks of rice just disappear like that?

Apparently, the ruse was to borrow the "cards" of the accredited dealers and make it appear that they were the ones who purchased the rice. With the deed done, this country and its people suffered one more blow from:

  1. Possibly (because, after all, one is innocent until proven guilty) corrupt government official(s) who direly need(s) to learn the basics of public service
  2. Unscrupulous traders who appear to be oblivious to the suffering of millions of Filipinos

NFA rice are usually sold at Php18.00++ per kilo. That amount is probably the cheapest that people can buy a kilo of rice for. The government is subsidizing the entire operation to sustain the delivery of this service. This only means that a substantial amount of taxpayers' money is poured into this initiative.

News like this are not exactly "new" anymore. It brings back memories of college days when idealism and hope brought me to places where I found a new way to look at existing realities.

I remember the pragmatism of farmers who till the land but ironically were left with almost nothing come harvest time. These were farmers who do not have enough food left to feed their families because countless middlemen buy their produce at such a very low price. It is when I heard about farmers barely getting by and their children not being able to go to school that my eyes were opened to what injustice truly means.

I think that this rice crisis will blow over, just like those countless other crises that this country and its people weathered. But the true question is, will corruption ever wane? It is always said that hope springs eternal. I will just have to hold on to that thought.

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