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NFA exec blames its council’s ‘bureaucracy’ in delay of rice importation

/ 02:08 PM August 28, 2018
NFA rice

The National Food Authority imports rice from Vietnam on board the cargo ship Vinh Phuoc as workers unload 10,800 tons of rice at the port of Tabaco, in this July 5, 2007. Vietnam is one of the world’s largest exporters of the cereal. AFP file photo

Officials of the National Food Authority (NFA) and NFA Council have blamed each other for the delay in the approval to import rice, which supposedly led to the shortage of government-subsidized staple in the country.

NFA officer-in-charge Tomas Escarez on Tuesday faulted the “bureaucracy” within the NFA Council for the delay in the government initiative to import rice to address the country’s shortage.

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The NFA made the request for rice importation as early as October 2017, the official said, lamenting that the NFA Council approved it only in May this year.

“As early as October last year, sir we’re requesting to import rice but the process is so complicated sir… We have a Council (NFA Council) over and above us, it is the Council who would say how much to procure at kailan ito darating,” Escarez said during a roundtable discussion led by the House ways and means committee.

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Panel chair, Quirino Rep. Dakila Cua then asked: “So, sinasabi mo bureacracy ang dahilan kaya nagkakagulo dyan sa rice supply?” (So, you are saying bureaucracy is the reason why there is chaos in the rice supply?)

Escarez replied: “‘Yun po [that’s it]… even if this would cost my job…”

“Dahil sa pasikut-sikot po at sa bureacuracy ito ang naging dahilan kung bakit nagkaroon ng delayed arrival ng imported rice,” he added.

(Because of the winding turns and bureaucracy, these are the reasons why there is a delay in the arrival of imported rice.)

But Department of Trade and Industry Undersecretary Ruth Castelo, who is also part of the NFA Council, said it was NFA’s late submission of its rice supply inventory that led to the delay in the procurement of imported rice.

“The Council was asking for an inventory of rice supply of NFA even before they requested for importation. NFA was not able to submit this which caused the delay for the approval of the importation,” Castelo argued.

She also said it was the NFA administrator’s declaration of a rice shortage that triggered the rise in prices of rice.

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“NFA announced that there was no more rice, but what we need the public to know is that NFA only provides 5 percent of the country’s rice requirement… We have commercial and household rice… NFA only stabilizes prices by having enough supply in case of emergency…” she explained.

“But the inflation rise, according to the NFA Council, was triggered by the declaration of the NFA that there was no more rice supply,” she added.

Escarez rebutted Castelo’s statement, saying: “We can go to the record we have the minutes of the Council meeting and we have the recommendation.”

“Magsisinungaling ho ba kami (sa dami ng bigas)?” he also said.

Deputy Speaker and Surigao del Sur 1st District Rep. Prospero Pichay, Jr. said there might be a need to revisit the law to address the issue. He also said there is a need to truly determine how long the Council acts on the request of the NFA.

“I move that we be supplied with the records of the meetings of the Council para we’ll be able to settle how long the council acts on the request of the NFA,” Pichay said.

“Napakavital po nito eh [This is very vital]…to ensure food security,” he added. /jpv

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