MANILA (19 June 2020) -– The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), through its attached corporation, the Philippine International Trading Corporation (PITC), will only import rice once it gets the nod of President Rodrigo Duterte, Malacañang said on Thursday.

In a virtual presser aired on state-run PTV-4, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque ensured that rice importation would only proceed when Duterte gives his approval.

“Hindi po magi-import [ng rice] ang DTI, PITC ng walang proper authorization galing kay Presidente Duterte (The DTI and PITC will not import rice without proper authorization from President Duterte),” Roque said.

The Inter-Agency for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases authorized the PITC in March to import 300,000 metric tons (MT) of rice.

The government has allocated a PHP7.45-billion fund for the PITC’s 300-MT rice importation through a government-to-government transaction to boost the country’s staple stocks during the lean months.

On Monday, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said the PITC has no legal authority to import 300 MT of rice.

The DBM added that funds could not be released without a formal instruction from Duterte.

Under Republic Act 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law, the government is only allowed to import rice “in the event of a rice supply shortage” and upon the issuance of an official directive from the President.

The government, however, has not declared any shortage in rice supply.

The DBM’s pronouncement prompted the PITC to hold in abeyance the issuance of notice of award to prospective rice suppliers to the country pending the availability of funds.

Last week, the PITC held the bidding for rice imports with the governments of India, Vietnam, Thailand, and Myanmar through video communications application Zoom.

Roque said the PITC had already asked Duterte to approve the plan to import rice.

“Walang Notice of Award na napa-issue po ang PITC without authorization from the President. Nag-submit na po ng request sa Office of the President (There’s no notice of award that has been issued by PITC without authorization from the President. It has already submitted a request from the Office of the President),” he said. (IA/PNA)