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May 2024

Ensure rice supply if gov’t wants to maintain social and political stability

In modern-day Philippines, our aspirations should be able to extend beyond mere subsistence. But life for both me and many others in my community has become primarily focused solely on survival.

One of the projects I volunteered to attend provides packed foods and clean water for calamity-stricken areas in Mindanao. After we prepared everything, the queue was almost as long as a 20-meter line on a highway. So we immediately arranged a table full of donated rice, hygiene kits, and used clothes. People would rush in to get their hands on a pack of rice once the table was open. Well, it is understandable. I think many Filipinos are in survival mode these days in the country; most of us are scared and desperate to ensure we have enough to get by. These are the basics, the essentials of life. It’s sad to watch.

Rising rice prices and shortages will negatively impact the current administration. Rice is vital for political stability, and the rule is clear: Ensure affordable rice supply for the masses if the government wants to maintain its social and political stability. If we dismiss the rice price issue, it would be pointless. As I’ve learned from listening to social and political analysts, they always tell us that the first signs of civil unrest can often be traced to rising rice prices. That’s why it’s no wonder rice policies are a matter of national security, especially food security.

I had an unpleasant experience a few weeks ago in our local supermarket, which showed how heartlessness is carrying over into everyday life. As I was leaving the store, three staff members and a security guard blocked the exit of a middle-aged woman after me. She was alone, and timid, yet had a peaceful aura. They demanded her receipt and searched her bag; the security guard said they’d seen her on CCTV putting a pack of rice inside it. Several people gathered near the service checkout to watch the commotion.

The woman said she paid for the rice and I believed her. I interrupted their accusation and asked the staff members to inform the woman of their policies and procedures regarding bag searches. I expected that they didn’t have one and firmly believed that others would experience the same treatment in this kind of scenario. After realizing that the woman didn’t steal from the supermarket, the staff gave her modest compensation in the form of a voucher which the woman humbly accepted. She thanked me after the incident and I guided her to the exit.

I wanted more than just the vouchers for the woman; I wanted to give the staff members and the guard a lesson in their behavior toward the elderly. I wanted to give her justice. However I realized that taking it further would be at the expense of the woman’s age and mental health. I now feel uncomfortable going into shops, and this particular supermarket was one that I shopped at regularly.

As one of the many people who experience anxiety brought about by the trials of modern life in our poor country, I urge people not to accept that this is “just the way it is.” There is clearly something wrong when even routine tasks like our weekly shopping are marred by such a pervasive sense of distrust. There is injustice when the least of our brothers and sisters sleep with empty stomachs.

I don’t want to be a part of a society where shop staff behave like law enforcement, where homelessness, hardship, and poverty are accepted, and where a small percentage of individuals hold the bulk of a country’s wealth and assets. Things need to change. The current model doesn’t work, nor is it morally and ethically justifiable. QR Code

Published Date: November 14, 2023

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