Police brace for rice riots

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — SAYING that poverty and crime are connected, the police is bracing for “worst-case scenarios” including riots in case a massive rice shortage does occur in Metro Manila.

“We are prepared for any possibility including street trouble that may arise should there be a scarcity of rice supply,” National Capital Region police Office chief Director Geary Barias said.

Barias said they have intensified their crime prevention campaign in preparation for problems that may arise due to the looming food crisis.

The NCRPO chief said they are assisting the National Food Authority in its campaign to identify and arrest those involved in rice hoarding and re-bagging of NFA rice before selling them at a commercial price.

So far, police have aided the NFA in raiding two areas in Quezon City believed to be owned by NFA rice hoarders.

The owners of the raided warehouses are now being investigated.

President Macapagal-Arroyo said military trucks will also be used to distribute rice in areas where there is tight supply.

Maj. Gen. Fernando Mesa of the National Capital Region Command fielded 20 trucks to augment the NFA delivery fleet. He said the military will also provide security to NFA personnel who distribute rice in depressed areas.

The government will discuss rice and food issues during the Food Summit held today in Clark, Pampanga. The President will attend the summit to be presided by Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap.

Mrs. Arroyo also instructed all state universities and colleges to make their gymnasiums available for rice storage.

National Police chief Director General Avelino I. Razon, Jr. alerted all 17 police regional offices and national support units to go after rice hoarders and illegal traders.

Field commanders were also ordered to arrest and investigate persons engaged in unauthorized re-milling of rice and re-bagging of NFA grain products.

Chief Supt. Silverio Alarcio said police will secure rice storage facilities, government food warehouses, and NFA accredited rice warehouses.

“If it is necessary that we should tail all trucks hauling NFA rice to ensure that the cargo does not end up in illegal warehouses, we will do that and hit hard on the hoarders who are causing this artificial crisis,” Alarcio said.