GMA talks rice with Thai PM

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — The rice situation and cooperation in food security highlighted yesterday’s bilateral meeting of President Macapagal-Arroyo and visiting Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej.

The President in her speech at the Local Peace and Security Assembly meeting in Bacolod City shortly before the arrival honors for Samak in Malacanang yesterday said she would personally thank Thailand for alerting the Philippines on the looming rice problem.

The government earlier asked Thailand to increase the volume of rice imports to the Philippines. The National Food Authority is negotiating for a higher volume than the 15,000 metric tons Thailand committed under the East Asian Emergency Rice program.

The President repeatedly gave assurances there is no rice shortage in the country, saying the government was able to build up the stocks especially for the lean months through its importations.

Also listed as the talking points in the meeting of the two leaders were improving the supply and distribution of rice, improving rice productivity through research and development, using the latest technique in crop establishment as well as rice breeding; tourism cooperation, trade and investment cooperation, issues affecting the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, humanitarian assistance to Myanmar, and Thailand’s chairmanship of the ASEAN.

The President treated Samak to arrival honors at the Palace grounds shortly after Samak’s arrival at the airport. He was met by Vice President Noli de Castro, Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap, Philippine Ambassador to Thailand Antonio Rodriguez, and Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Pedrito Cadungog.

It was the first visit to the Philippines of Sundaravej, a famous television chef who became prime minister only last January. He was the leader of the People’s Power Party since August 2007 and his campaign for the post of premier was said to have been endorsed by former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra who was ousted by a military coup in September 2006.