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30/09/2009: D.A. has Initial Relief Package for Ondoy Victims, Assures Public of Stable Rice, Sugar Supply

The Department of Agriculture (DA) has laid an initial package of assistance to Typhoon Odoy victims even as it assured the public of adequate rice and sugar supply and a relatively minimal impact of this latest howler on the country’s targeted palay output this main planting season.

Emerging from an emergency meeting of the National Price Coordinating Council (NPCC) at the Board of Investments (BOI) office in Makati City , Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap told a news conference these initial DA initiatives for “Ondoy” victims include a P100-million emergency loan (in kind) for market vendors and food suppliers in still-flooded markets in Metro Manila.

Yap also said the DA-attached National Food Authority (NFA) is opening four relief centers that will accept donations from the public.

Yap said, “The initial crop damage estimates reaching the DA point to at least P3.1 billion-worth of palay, which is less than two percent of the harvest target of 10 million metric tons (MT) this wet or main planting season.”

But he is confident that “a portion of such crops could still be recovered because these are standing crops that could already be harvested and dried with the help of the government’s dryers and other postharvest facilities.”

“One positive development is that the unprecedented downpour has filled most of the government dams with enough water to irrigate another 12,000 hectares of cropland in next year’s dry crop,” he said.

There are also enough rice and sugar supply, he said, with stocks of the staple food totaling some 2.3 million MT, or equivalent to the national requirement for 67 days.

He said that of this rice inventory, commercial stocks  total 372,000 MT, or enough for 11 days; households have another 728,000 MT good for 21 days; and the NFA has 1.2 million MT more that will last for 35 days.

As of press time, Yap and other DA officials were on an aerial inspection to further assess the damage to agriculture and fisheries across Central Luzon.

During the NPPC meeting, Yap said that owners of supermarket chains have committed to help the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) monitor price movements and ensure that traders do not unduly cash-in on the situation by jacking up their retail prices.

The emergency meeting was called by DTI Secretary Peter Favila and was attended by different industries like Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI)  headed by Edgardo Lacson, president together with Donald Dee, and Atty Miguel Varela; Francisco Buencamino, both executive director of  PAFMI and  Alliance of Fish Canners of the Philippines; Phil. Sugar Millers Asso, Atty. Jesus Barrera, legal officer;  Philippine Amalgated Supermarket Asso. Pres. Steven Cua;   Phil Asso. of Supermarket Inc . sec-gen. Atty Federico Ples; Alaska Milk Corporation Santiago Pulido, vice president;  Coca cola group brand manager Teejae Sonza;  BFAD chief product services division Jesusa Joyce Cirunay.

DA Assistant Secretary Salvador Salacup said Yap has “set aside a P100-million emergency fund to help market vendors in still-inundated public markets in Metro Manila start selling goods again once the floods subside and these major retail outlets are ready for reopening.”

Once these markets reopen, he said “the DA will loan out commodities such as pork, chicken and fish to the vendors to help them recover and at the same time restore the easy access to these goods of consumers in the flood-hit communities.”

Among the flooded markets that have remained closed for the moment, he said, are the Mutya ng Pasig and the wet markets in Cainta, Marikina, Malabon and Navotas.

Yap said during the news conference that in cooperation with the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the NFA is turning four of its major warehouses in the metropolis as temporary relief centers that will accept donations—in cash or in kind—for the “Ondoy” victims, preferably essentials like water, rice, canned goods, ready-to-cook meal products, blankets and old clothes.

These NFA relief centers are the Uniden Warehouse at the Food Terminal Inc. (FTI) Compound in Taguig City, the NFA Visayas Warehouse at Visayas Avenue in Quezon City, NFA Kingswood Warehouse  at # 22 Quirino Avenue, Baesa, Quezon City and  the NFA Antipolo Warehouse at Manuel L. Quezon Avenue Ext., Antipolo City.

For further details, would-be donors and volunteers can reach the DA and NFA at their hotlines 9202216/9263833 (for the DA) and 4260569 (for the NFA).

Earlier, Yap ordered DA officials to expedite the submission of assessment reports on the farm damages and the status of food supplies so the government can map a comprehensive aid and rehabilitation program in the aftermath of the worst ever howler to hit Metro Manila and many other parts of Luzon in decades.

Yap at the same time appealed to traders to refrain from unduly cashing-in on this latest natural calamity by jacking up the retail prices of their goods and to consumers from hoarding commodity supplies.

“I have directed the heads of all concerned DA agencies to fast-track their assessment work on the actual farm damages wrought by Typhoon Ondoy as well as on actual food supplies in the national capital and elsewhere so we can come up at once with a comprehensive aid and rehabilitation program for the benefit of our farmers, fisherfolk, agribusiness entrepreneurs and consumers,” Yap said.

“I am also appealing to our traders to be responsible enough and not to exacerbate the situation by hoarding food stocks or jacking up the retail costs of their goods,” he said. “The same appeal goes for consumers to similarly refrain from hoarding supplies and continue buying only what they normally need.”

“Metro Manila and many other parts of Luzon have been battered by the worst ever typhoon in several decades and countless Filipinos have either died, are still homeless or reeling from unprecedented property losses,” Yap said. “The last thing we need at this point is for unscrupulous people to aggravate this unfortunate situation and profit from such misfortunes by inducing abnormal food shortages or price spirals.

Press Release from the Department of Agriculture