May 02, 2008 19:04 IST
Philippines has found a novel way to beat the rice crisis looming large over the world.
In a recent call to Filipinos, President Arroyo said they should boil rice with sweet potatoes or they should go for cheaper cereals to avoid going hungry as rice prices soared to record levels.
"This is a once-a-millennium global crisis. We have an action plan," Arroyo said, noting that residents of the central island of Cebu are already using cheap sweet potatoes to beat the crisis.
Philippines is world's biggest rice importer and is struggling to boost rice supplies.
Arroyo has warned that soaring food and energy prices could impact on the national government budget this year.
One of the means that can reduce the burden of the global rise in the price of rice is to have substitutes, Arroyo said.
Again, Arroyo is desperately fighting the crisis now. She has also vowed to crack down on rice and bread bandits.
She personally inspected a Manila warehouse, where police seized thousands of bags of rice being hoarded in anticipation of higher prices.
And she dragged the Philippine media along to a customs office, where she badgered officials into filing charges against alleged flour smugglers.
The furious pace reflects Arroyo's awareness that rice is not just a food but also a political commodity in a country of 91 million, where large swaths of the population live on the margins of hunger.
But Arroyo's credibility has been badly compromised by widespread corruption allegations against her government.
The stain of sleaze has created a well of mistrust that inhibits her ability to rally the country to her policies.