MANILA – The Duterte administration does not welcome any help, advice or assistance from anyone who is part of the political opposition, even during a crisis.
This much was made clear on Wednesday, Sept. 19, when Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque told former interior secretary Mar Roxas to just keep quiet after the defeated presidential candidate called for a “timeout” in President Rodrigo Duterte’s war of words witjh the Liberal Party.
Speaking in the vernacular, Roque said in a radio interview that Roxas had best keep his thoughts to himself.
Roxas wrote an open letter to Mr. Duterte recommending ways to address the ongoing shortage as well as soaring prices of rice, the principal staple food of the people.
Retail prices of rice vary depending on the quality, but the regular milled white rice favored by most Filipinos has broken past the P50 per kilo mark in recent weeks. Last week’s typhoon Ompong which struck central and northern Luzon – part of the country’s rice granary – destroyed billions of pesos worth of rice, aggravating an already difficult supply situation.
The government, through the National Food Administration, imported rice from Vietnam, but the stock was found to be infested with bukbok (weevil), although it is claimed to be still edible.
Among others, Roxas had recommended that the private sector be allowed to import rice without limit.
“Only amassive and immediate additional supply of rice can brong down prices to affordable levels,” Roxas wrote in his letter to the president, which was also posted on Facebook.
The former senator who is a Wharton graduate suggested that the government hike the Minimum Access Volume to 1.5 metric tons. He also suggested that all large users such as fastfood restaurants and supermarkets independently source their own needs.
Roxas also said the government could include all farmers to the government’s Conditional Cash Transfer program, which gives cash to the poorest of the poor, subject to certain conditions.
Finally, Roxas said that the Duterte administration should consider repealing the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (Train) law, which has been blamed for the continuous rise in the prices of fuel as well as basic commodities.
Roxas is frequently mentioned as leading the LP slate for th midterm elections next year, although he has stated that he has not yet made up his mind whether he wants to return to politics or remain in the private sector.