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Friday, July 19, 2024

Rice at P20/kilo an ‘aspiration’

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“Hopefully, in the future, we don’t have to import fish again”

I am beginning to like the newly-appointed Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel.

He is honest and practical when he said rice at P20/kilo is only an “aspiration” and an impossibility at this time.

Aware that rice at P20/kilo was a promise of President Marcos Jr. during the campaign of 2022, Laurel could well have said it is “achievable.”

But, as a big businessman and a former fishing tycoon, Laurel was honest when he said it is an impossible probability in response to a query whether or not we could have rice at P20/kilo as promised by BBM.

To those who think Filipinos can return to those years when we bought our rice at P20/kilo, they are dreaming, not with the many conflicts happening now – with high inflation, fuel prices increasing, transport fares soaring and demand for higher wages continuing.

My gulay, what was previously $230 per ton of rice today is now $700 in Vietnam where we usually import our rice supply.

In India, the price of our rice imports has likewise gone up.

With the world, including the pHilippines, going through climate change, El Nino and geopolitical tensions, the Department of Agriculture’s new chief knows well enough of the many threats and challenges facing him.

For these reasons BBM held on as DA secretary for over a year.

Laurel is fully aware of the need to modernize agriculture and farming to boost production, the need for silos for storage, more irrigation, affordable fertilizer prices, the need for more farm to market roads to ensure food supply, and, most important of all, food supply at affordable prices.

As a big fishing tycoon, Laurel is also fully aware of the problems and needs of fisherfolk.

And, hopefully, in the future, we don’t have to import fish again.

The advantage of a DA chief with a background like Laurel is that despite all the challenges he has to face, let’s all hope our aspirations to be assured of food supply at affordable prices would be finally achieved.

NAIA bidders now eight

Santa Banana, first it was only one group of the big conglomerates that wanted to modernize, rehabilitate, and maintain the NAIA by offering to the government an unsolicited bid of no less than P225 billion proposal costing as much as P170.6 billion.

But, the NEDA, chaired by no less than President Marcos Jr., turned down the unsolicited proposal and would rather have solicited bids in pursuance of what is called public-private partnership.

Now, there are no less than eight participants in the solicited bidding offered by NEDA, with the two from Seoul, South Korea and Turkey buying bid documents.

The bidders that bought bid documents for the NAIA upgrade are GMR Airports International; San Miguel Holdings Corp.; Manila International Airport Consortium that made an unsolicited proposal; Spark 888 Management; Asian Airport Consortium, Cengiz Insaat Sanayi ve Ticaret A.S. and Incheon Airport Corp.

The eighth participant is the Limak Group of Turkey.

The concession to the winning bidder has been set at P170.6 billion to be decided by the end of the year.

Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista said the award will finally be known by the first quarter of 2024.

Whoever wins, I am glad the main gateway to the Philippines, the archaic and jurassic NAIA, which has become an embarrassment to Filipinos, will at long last be modernized to catch up with the rest of Southeast Asia.

As somebody who has traveled a lot as a journalist, my heart sank whenever I saw those beautiful airports around the world.

We truly need a modernized airport as the main gateway to the county.

Just how long can we realize this dream is now the question, since it will take some time for the winning bidder to complete the modernization, rehabilitation and maintenance of NAIA.

With a new gateway, we can have an international airport we Filipinos can truly be proud of.

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