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(UPDATE) Arroyo assures people anew against rice crisis

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(UPDATE) Arroyo assures people anew against rice crisis
« on: April 08, 2008, 07:22:01 PM »
 President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has assured that the country would weather the rice crisis, telling the people not to panic over the lack of supply of the staple and vowing to lead the charge against those who would be caught stealing and hoarding them.

In her opening statement Tuesday at the Cabinet meeting, Arroyo also announced that millions of metric tons of rice would be imported from Vietnam, Thailand, and Pakistan in the coming months to ensure ample supply.

She also asked Congress to expedite the passage of the Consumer Bill of Rights to impose stiffer penalties against unscrupulous traders.

Arroyo led an ecumenical prayer at the start of the meeting, centering on "prayer for good harvest and fair price."

She also facilitated a video conference with rice traders and local officials from rice-producing provinces.

Arroyo said it was important for the people to understand the rice situation and of efforts by the government to stem crisis.

"It would be unfortunate if panic overtook logic, for we will endure and survive this moment and come through it stronger. In the meantime, however, it will take unity and hard work. We must all pull together including the government, the private sector, civil society, and our faithful community to help the poor and see us through this challenging time," she said.

Arroyo revealed the government's Action Plan comprised of three phases: securing supply, ensuring proper distribution, and guaranteeing the enforcement of laws against gouging and corruption.

"Those who seek to take advantage of our people must be stopped. I am leading the charge to crack down on any form of corruption by public or private officials who would divert supplies or pervert the price of this essential commodity in any way," she said.

"Anyone caught stealing rice from the people will be thrown in jail," Arroyo said.

"In order to reinforce this, we will be submitting a Consumers Bill of Rights to Congress that will help protect and defend consumers while strengthening penalties against those individuals or entities that abuse the right of our people to this basic commodity," she added.

Millions of cavans of imported rice have arrived and are due to come in the country to secure supply, she said.

At least 500,000 metric tons (MT), 70 percent of which are from Vietnam and 30 percent from Thailand, have arrived. In April, May and June, 700,000 MT more are arriving from Vietnam and Thailand and 30,000 MT from Pakistan.

There s a public bidding on April 17 for 500,000 tons arriving in May, June, and July and another bidding in May for rice deliveries in June, July, and August for the balance of 500,000 MT.

Arroyo said the Department of Agriculture has tapped the help of the Catholic Church and mosques to assist n the distribution of government-subsidized rice.

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