RP Gov't Lifts Requirements for Rice Bidding; Thailand Drops Plan for Cartel
President Arroyo said the Philippines could make an exception and lift some requirements in buying rice meant to ensure transparency, like sovereign guarantees from exporting countries.
Mrs. Arroyo said the Government Procurement Policy Board of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has already received formal requests from the World Bank and Vietnam to change the bidding procedures for the supply and delivery of rice.
Meanwhile, Thailand's foreign minister announced that it has dropped its plan to organize the five Mekong River countries into a rice cartel. The other proposed countries in the cartel are Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, and Cambodia.
The cartel proposal had immediately drawn sharp reactions from various countries, including the Philippines, as it signified restrictions such as those in the oil industry, which is largely controlled by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
On the Philippine decision to lift requirements for bidding to supply rice to the Philippines, Mrs. Arroyo said Secretary Rolando Andaya had suggested the lifting after Thailand and Vietnam claimed they were driving the price of rice upwards.
Mrs. Arroyo also said Thailand and Vietnam also asked to be allowed to enter into government-togovernment contracts for the supply and delivery of rice without any public bidding as required by Philippine procurement rules.
Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Arthur Yap said buying rice under a government-to-government scheme without bidding is just an alternative scheme in buying rice, and still provides for safeguards to ensure transparency.
The bidding for the supply and delivery of 675,000 metric tons of rice last Monday failed after only Vietnam offered a bid for the contract.
Thailand, the biggest exporter of rice, had earlier backed out of the bidding because it does not give sovereign guarantees to private exporters which the Philippines required in the tender last Monday.
Mrs. Arroyo assured that the Philippines has enough supplies of rice, citing enough rice imports and prospects of an abundant harvest during the coming wet season.
Mrs. Arroyo said the country's 1.5 million metric tons of rice imports are enough to cover the projected rice deficit for 2008, and the tenders for the supply and delivery of additional rice imports are merely for the country's buffer stocks.
Mrs. Arroyo said the Philippines can count on the harvest this coming wet season, despite a warning by Albay Gov. Joey Salceda that the country's rice deficit could be prolonged if the harvest for the wet season does not meet the expectations.
Salceda said the country's planned importation of about 1.8 million metric tons of rice to ensure adequate supplies throughout the year is premised on an assumption that the total harvests this year would amount to at least 17.3 million metric tons of palay, with 10.1 million metric tons expected during the coming wet harvest season.
Thailand dropping plans to organize SEA rice cartel
BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) -- Thailand is dropping plans to create a Southeast Asian rice cartel that would have fixed the price of the skyrocketing commodity over food security concerns, the country's foreign minister said Tuesday.
The proposal to create an OPEC-like cartel was first floated last week by Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej to give rice producers greater control over rice prices, which have tripled since December.
The oil cartel proposal heavily criticized by senators in the Philippines, a major importer, as well as some Thai rice exporters.
"We are not talking about setting up a rice cartel," Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama said after a meeting with ambassadors from six rice-exporting countries in Asia. "If Thailand sets up an rice cartel and fixes a price, that will make matters worse and worsen food security. …