Pangilinan: NFA officials must be held accountable for rice crisis
Senator Francis Pangilinan on Monday said officials of the National Food Authority (NFA) must be held accountable for the “effective theft” of government rice which triggered the rice crisis.
“Are we just going to forget it? We would like to know. If these are allegations, you have to look into it,” Pangilinan told government officials during the NFA budget hearing.
This is the second hearing of the Senate Committee on Finance on the NFA budget.
The senators had earlier expressed their concern over malpractices at the agency.
Pangilinan, who was the presidential adviser on food security and agricultural modernization during the previous administration, noted that in past Senate hearings, traders and other stakeholders exposed the diversion of NFA rice, which is a clear violation of the law.
He noted that the retail prices of rice then reached P70 per kilo in some parts of the country.
“The entire country was brought to its knees when rice prices went sky high due to massive corruption and incompetence in the NFA, and no one gets punished,” he said.
“Billions of pesos of NFA rice where either diverted and billions of pesos worth of import quotas manipulated to favor select traders that led to the shortage of rice and no one is charged,” he added.
The senator stressed that repackaging NFA rice as commercial rice and selling them at higher prices deprives consumers of available and affordable rice, which is the mandate of the agency.
He emphasized that this is “not simply mismanagement or negligence” as diversion can only be done when rice traders are in “cahoots” with NFA officials.
“Is there an investigation on this matter? The report that favored traders were given accommodations in Bulacan, Ano ang ginawa ng NFA rito (What is the action of the NFA here)? Ano’ng gagawin sa nangyaring hindi maganda (What are we going to do with this mess)?” Pangilinan asked.
“May problema sa diversion and rebagging, sa MAV (minimum access volume), binago pa raw ang country of origin para ma-accommodate ang iilan. Maraming concerns. Wala na si Mr. Aquino, pero ganoon na lang ba?” he said referring to former NFA administrator Jason Aquino, who resigned from his position amid the controversy on the country’s rice supply.
(There were problems on diversion and rebagging as well as the MAV. There were reports they even changed the country of origin to accommodate some people. There are many concerns. Mr. Aquino’s term is finished. What are we going to do about this?)
Pangilinan also requested the NFA Security Services and Investigation Department (SSID) to submit to his office by November 30 a report detailing the “alleged malpractices” in the agency.
“Let us inform Secretary [Manny] Piñol that we will raise this in plenary. We can speed up the [budget] deliberations only when these matters are addressed,” he said referring to the secretary of the Department of Agriculture. /ee
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