The American government will be willing to help the Philippines in case the country faces a food crisis, US Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney said Wednesday.
“We assured absolutely [Agriculture] Secretary Arthur Yap to keep in touch with our agriculture sector . . . We’ll make rice available for the Philippines,” Kenney told reporters during the Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor) commemoration in Bataan province, north of Manila.
President Gloria Arroyo, speaking at the same ceremony, said, “The global rise in the price of basic commodities like fuel and rice is putting a strain on all hardworking Filipinos.”
She pledged to ensure adequate supply of the cereal, the Filipinos’ staple.
The US ambassador said she is checking details of additional rice exports to the Philippines. But she assured that “we are ready to make [the exports] available as far as the Philippines is concerned.”
The US has enough rice supply and helping the Philippines in times of need will further strengthen “this great partnership” between the two countries, she added.
Besides extending assistance though rice exports, Kenney said, the US government will also be willing to conduct a joint innovative rice research with the Philippines.
“We have a lot of great work going on in the Philippines to create more nutritious, disease-free rice. Yes, I am excited to be part of that and you could count on us,” she said.
The US government already assists the Philippine agricultural sector through the Public Law 480 program, a commodity-loan program under which Washington extends loans to Manila in the form of farm commodities such as rice.
The commodities are then monetized and are supposed to be used for improving the country’s farm sector. The loans are payable at a longer period of time at lower interest rate.
The Philippines’ National Food Authority (NFA), the state-run grains trading agency under the Department of Agriculture, conducts the bidding process for Public Law 480 rice.
Manila, one of the world’s top rice importers, has announced plans to import up to 2.7 million tons this year even as prices soared to near-historical levels amid tight global supplies.
Initial imports this year have come from Thailand, Vietnam and Pakistan.
The United States exported 4.6 million tons of rice in 2004, according to the latest available figures provided by the Philippine-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).
Analysts have warned major rice importers that soaring prices could lead to social unrest and pose security problems. The Philippine government has deployed police and military to crack down on rice hoarders.
–Angelo S. Samonte And AFP