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Caritas Manila backs rice import probe

Investigation must be ’objective and transparent’

Workers from the National Food Authority sell rice at government-subsidized prices to people in poor communities Workers from the National Food Authority sell rice at government-subsidized prices to people in poor communities
  • ucanews.com staff, Manila
  • Philippines
  • January 24, 2011
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Caritas Manila, the social services and development arm of Manila Archdiocese, said it is backing President Benigno Aquino III’s call for an investigation into graft allegations surrounding rice imports.

“These allegations must be investigated immediately ... if graft has occurred or if some groups are favored at the expense of our people,” said Father Anton Pascual, executive director of Caritas Manila.

President Aquino last week revealed that one or more individuals had profited from the importation of 200,000 metric tons at inflated prices in 2010 during the administration of his predecessor Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Father Pascual said an investigation should be “objective and transparent” because rice is a “political product” in the Philippines. It is the staple food for Filipinos and should be affordable to the masses, the priest added.

“Let’s be transparent. What is really the situation of our rice industry? Why are we short of supplies,” Father Pascual said, adding that the Philippines should have a sufficient supply of rice because it is an agricultural country.

Caritas Manila has worked with the government’s National Food Authority in distributing cheaper rice to the “very poor.” Parishes have been selling cheaper rice to poor families to protect them from the fluctuating price of the staple food.

“The challenge for this administration is to solve the problems of people, and the people’s problem is rice. The government should endeavor to make sure we become self-sufficient and not import rice,” Father Pascual said.

Meanwhile, legislators have called on President Aquino to identify the person or persons behind the “overpriced” importation of rice and prosecute them.

Rafael Mariano said the president has all the pertinent documents about the contracts and he should reveal them to the public. He said it was in the public interest to reveal who had the contracts.

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Rice price hike stalls Church feeding programChurch-run program refuses ‘rotting’ rice

PR12991.1638
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