Gov't eyes Customs official to authorize rice import permits — Roque

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 10) — The government is eyeing the appointment of a go-to Customs official for faster authorization of rice import permits in an effort to ease inflation, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Monday.

He said Malacañang is looking at the option of designating a Customs official who will specifically focus on signing and approving import permits for rice. This is to prevent delays in importation and help lower the rising prices of commodities. 

"Isa sa solusyon na naiisip ay magkaroon ng isang full-time Customs person who will authorize the issuance of import permits for rice," Roque told reporters in a media briefing. 

(Translation: One of the solutions we're looking at is having a full-time Customs person who will authorize the issuance of import permits for rice.) 

"Kasi naaantala yung importation kasi minsan yung pumipirma, kasama ng chairman ng Customs." "So natatambak o hindi napipirmahan yung import permits na nagiging dahilan kaya hindi rin mababa yung mga bigas," he added. 

(Translation: Importation is delayed because sometimes, the one's who in charge of signing permits is not around. So the unsigned import permits continue to pile up, that's why the rice is not delivered.) 

The spokesperson said President Rodrigo Duterte has yet to name anyone for possible appointment to the post. 

The Palace last month announced the National Food Authority Council will authorize an increase in imports for government-subsidized rice. The importation, according to authorities, is seen to address high prices of the grain.  

Rising prices of the staple, including other food and fuel products, have been linked to the country's nine-year high inflation rate of 6.4 percent in August.

READ: Food, fuel costs hike August inflation to nine-year high

Roque said the government will continue to address the issue of rising prices. He also denied reports that the country is facing rice shortage. 

"We have ample supply," Roque noted. "Sobra sobra na po talaga yung binigay natin na authorization para maangkat." 

"Naniniwala po tayo na ang supply ay naririyan. Baka meron lang po talagang nagtatago."

(Translation: We have authorized a lot for importation. We believe the supply is there. It's just that maybe someone is hiding them from us.)

CNN Philippines Correspondent Ina Andolong and Digital Producer Alyssa Rola contributed to this report.