By Manilyn Ugalde
TABACO CITY, Albay, (PNA) -– “Padyak” (tricycle) operator Telesforo Begil makes it a habit that at 10 a.m., he will rush to the market to buy a kilo of National Food Authority (NFA) rice priced at P27 a kilo for the family lunch budget.
Late in the afternoon, he will again buy another kilo of NFA rice for their evening consumption.
This has been the daily routine which Begil has been doing for almost two decades now.
He explained that of the two kilos of rice he buys for the family’s daily consumption, with his wife and three kids, any excess is reserved for breakfast.
But the poor padyak operator said on Monday afternoon that he had not seen NFA rice in the market for a couple of days that he had to settle for the variety that sells at a minimum of P30 per kilo, which rice retailers claim as a commercial one.
Last Sunday, he said NFA rice was still missing at the Tabaco City market, which is just beside the city hall.
Begil is just among the more than 5,000 padyak operators who are dependent every day on the cheapest NFA rice.
He said that with the estimated 5,000 padyaks operating like disturbed ants within the city, with a boundary of P40 a day, he can hardly raise a gross daily income of P180.
He said his family is trying to cope up with living a normal life, with him as a mere padyak operator who is dependent on the P27-a-kilo NFA rice daily.
According to Begil, NFA rice is their life, saying an increase in its price would be a family disaster.
The Begil family said buying commercial rice more than the NFA cost is a luxury to them and hopes that the government will not increase its current price of P27 a kilo.
He assailed the government for the missing NFA rice supply in the market.
Laborer Allan Borlagdan said he could not also find NFA rice in the market when he tried to purchase last Sunday and Monday.
Despite the missing NFA rice in the market, NFA officials claimed there is sufficient NFA rice supply pegged at P27 a kilo.
Mayor Marie Demetriou cannot be contacted for comment but her administrative officer, retired police Supt. Elizir Bron, said the missing NFA rice in the market is being investigated and monitored by the police.
In Legazpi City, Mayor Noel Rosal said he has ordered strict monitoring of NFA rice supply, warning rice traders of an artificial shortage of supply.
In Camarines Sur, NFA provincial director Edna de Guzman said there is no shortage of NFA rice in the market.
She urged consumers to report to her office any NFA retailers and traders who will report that they have no NFA rice.
De Guzman said NFA rice remains pegged at P27 a kilo, whose quality is equivalent to the commercial type sold at P36 a kilo.