President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the Department of Agriculture (DA), through the National Food Authority (NFA), to buy all locally harvested palay to help Filipino farmers recover from low prices.

“In a democracy, officials are elected and their duty is to do for the greatest good for the greatest number. You have seen people going wild, others hungry because there is no rice,” Duterte said in a press conference in Malacañang on Wednesday when asked about the government’s response to complaints from farmers.

“What the solution should be or will be [is] for the Secretary of Agriculture to buy all,” he said.

Farmers from Ilocos and Central Luzon regions have complained about low palay prices, which have dipped to P7 per kilo from P21.

They blame the implementation of the Rice Tariffication Law for the drop in palay prices.

But Duterte said the tariffication law was passed to “serve the greater interest of the majority of the people.”

As the NFA engages in a palay buying spree, farmers cannot demand a price, he said. “You arrive at a compromise of how much you are willing to lose a little bit. Huwag naman ‘yang paano. Medyo tapatan lang basta hindi malugi na ano ‘yung pagod nila but they are compensated.”

Sen. Francis Pangilinan on Tuesday said the government was allowed by law to negotiate prices directly with food producers, who would then be assured of buyers of their produce at fair prices.

Romeo Royandoyan, of Centro Saka, expressed shock over data of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) on P17-per-kilo selling palay prices, calling them “far from the reality.”

Former agrarian reform secretary Rafael Mariano said P8 per kilo of palay was not an exaggeration and said government officials must respect the experience of farmers.“Kahit pa bali-baliktarin natin kung aktwal at konkretong naranasan ng ating magsasaka — sa Nueva Ecija, hindi po iyon pagmamalabis. Kasi hindi po pwedeng magmalabis ang aktwal na karanasan ng mga magsasaka,” he said.

National Economic and Development Authority Assistant Secretary Mercedita Sombilla said the national average palay price stood at P16-P18 per kilo. (