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Zambo rice shortage: Pangilinan wants NFA execs sacked, calls for Senate probe

By: - Reporter / @JLeonenINQ
/ 11:18 AM August 23, 2018
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Senator Francis Pangilinan. INQUIRER.net file photo / CATHY MIRANDA

The “incompetent” top officials of the National Food Authority (NFA) should be fired from service for letting the rice shortage in Zamboanga City escalate under their watch, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said on Thursday.

Likewise, Pangilinan also called for a Senate investigation into the crisis, questioning how a rice shortage escalated in “the land of plenty” under the first Mindanaoan president, Rodrigo Duterte.

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A state of calamity was declared in Zamboanga City as rice supplies were found to have become scarce, with prices skyrocketing to about P70 per kilogram in some villages in the southern Philippine city.

“First things first: Fire the top management of NFA,” Pangilinan said in a statement, adding that the crisis was a “combination of both corruption and incompetence by top government officials in cahoots with wealthy private players in the rice industry taking advantage of the rising prices to profit handsomely.”

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“Powerful and influential forces both in and out of government are making a killing in manipulating both the availability of NFA rice stocks in particular, and the rice importation and procurement processes in general,” he said.

The senator lamented that the crisis has become a manifestation that “the reforms we put in place from 2014 to 2016 have been overturned by greed, incompetence, and corruption.”

To ensure that the NFA rice supply remains in good quality and affordable, Pangilinan said the next NFA administration must hold the “bureaucracy” and unscrupulous traders to account for their acts.

“We filed cases against both NFA managers in Bicol, Pampanga, Iloilo, and Surigao and private rice traders there to stop the diversion. We also increased supply of NFA rice by 78 percent in NCR within a two-week period to dissuade private traders from keeping prices up,” Pangilinan said.

An “open, transparent, and discretion-free” government-to-government rice importation process should also be put into place by an NFA council, the senator said.

“This saw the NFA Council rejecting bid offers for the first time in its over 40-year history, saving the government an average of $120 dollars per metric ton from 2014 to 2016 compared to 2010 to 2014,” he explained.

Pangilinan said the NFA should buy low and plan well.

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“Average annual import to meet local production shortfall is between 1.2 to 1.7 million metric tons. Buying low signals the rest of the market to buy low as well, thereby preventing higher retail prices. Be ten steps ahead,” Pangilinan said.

“Buying ahead of time, we were able to avoid being dictated upon by market forces. Procurement was done 3 to 6 months before the intended delivery date when rice prices in the international market were lower,” he added.

Senate investigation

Likewise, Pangilinan is calling for a Senate investigation into the first state of calamity declared in Zamboanga City.

“How can a rice shortage happen in the land of plenty under the first Mindanaoan president? For prices to shoot up to over 70 pesos a kilo, is the shortage real? Is it hoarding? How did the rice situation in Zamboanga City reach calamity level?” Pangilinan asked.

“Who are responsible? What can be done to resolve the shortage? These are just some of the questions we want answered in a Senate investigation into this gut issue that threatens to affect every Filipino,” he said. /jpv

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