DA chief ouster sought as he clings to target

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MLANG, North Cotabato—Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala continued to insist there is no shortage of rice amid rising prices and amid calls for President Benigno Aquino to carry out a sweeping revamp of the Department of Agriculture (DA) starting from its highest official.

Alcala came to this town as a guest in the annual harvest festival of Barangay Inas, announcing at least P16 million in farm-to-market roads and giving away a P1.7-million mechanized harvester to the village.

Following a guesting stint at a TV station, however, one of Alcala’s most vocal critic, lawyer Argee Guevarra, called on Mr. Aquino to revamp the DA starting with Alcala, saying reforms at the department that are needed to truly implement the government’s rice sufficiency program “cannot be done piecemeal.”

“The entire bureaucracy must be revamped to put an end to the malpractice at the  DA and NFA (National Food Authority),” said Guevarra in a statement released after he and Alcala guested at a morning TV show during which Guevarra said Alcala shouted at him.

During his visit here, Alcala said the rice production level of this town was another proof that rice self-sufficiency can be achieved this year.

“Reports about rice shortage are not correct,” Alcala said here. “We have no shortage of the Filipino staple food [because of Mlang and other rice-producing areas],” he said.

In his statement, Guevarra repeated his claim that, as a result of what he said was the flawed implementation of the rice sufficiency program, the DA imported more than 200,000 metric tons of rice and overpriced the importation by at least P400 million.

Mlang Mayor Lito Piñol said Alcala’s visit boosted the local government’s programs for farmers of the town. Edwin Fernandez and Williamor Magbanua, Inquirer Mindanao

 

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