Villar scores NFA sale of P94-M rice to commercial traders

Villar scores NFA sale of P94-M rice to commercial traders

By: - Reporter / @MRamosINQ
/ 05:25 AM March 02, 2024

Sen. Cynthia A. Villar nfa rice

Sen. Cynthia A. Villar (Bibo Nueva España/Senate PRIB)

The alleged sale of 75,000 bags of rice by the National Food Authority (NFA) to private traders was illegal, Sen. Cynthia Villar said on Friday as she vowed to look into the latest controversy hounding the agency.

“That’s wrong. That’s against the law. We will investigate this,” Villar told reporters after attending a gathering of hog raisers in Quezon City.


The senator was reacting to news reports that NFA Administrator Roderico Bioco had supposedly authorized the sale of the rice stocks, worth P93.75 million, to grain traders without the mandated bidding process.


Last weekend, Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. announced that he ordered an investigation of the transactions.

The following day, Tiu Laurel’s order was followed by an unusual announcement that probers were tasked to ascertain whether there were really irregularities or the complaint stemmed from “internal squabbling.”

It turned out that the claims came from a letter NFA Assistant Administrator Lemuel Pagayunan wrote to the Office of the President on Feb. 13 where he questioned the shelf life of the rice stocks and the manner of the sale.

Bioco replied on Monday that it was legal to sell old rice stocks under a price schedule approved by the NFA Council.

But Villar, a longtime lawmaker who has chaired the Senate agriculture committee since 2017, was not convinced.

“This has been going on for a long time. This is not a new finding,” Villar said.


READ: Outbid by rice traders, NFA loses market volume 

“Since it was subsidized by the government, [NFA rice] is cheaper [than commercial rice]. You don’t sell it to rice traders, but to the people who need them,” the senator said.

“I have personal experience with regards to that. That’s why I’m not happy with what has happened,” she said.

According to Villar, the supposed connivance of certain corrupt NFA officials with rice traders was among the main reasons why they pushed for the passage of the Rice Tariffication Law.

The law liberalized the entry of the staple from other countries by removing quantitative restrictions on imported rice and imposing a tariff on the imports.

Before its enactment, only the NFA was authorized to bring in rice produced outside the Philippines, the senator noted.

In his letter, Pagayunan claimed that Bioco also ordered a similar disposition of old stocks last year, but the sold rice was “not actually deteriorating but were treated and fit for consumption.”

The amount of rice sold was not specified, Pagayunan identified the buyers as G4Rice Mill Corp. and NBK San Pedro Rice Mill.

Pagayunan also claimed that then Assistant Administrator John Robert Hermano ordered four NFA regional managers on Nov. 13, 2023, to rebag to the stocks in containers without NFA markings prior to selling them as commercial rice.

Pagayunan also accused Bioco of conniving with former NFA regional manager Alwin Uy of directly dealing with commercial rice traders about the stock disposal.

While NFA may indeed dispose of deteriorating stocks, Pagayunan claimed the sales approved by Bioco did not comply with existing rules.

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He claimed that the stock disposition was not approved by the NFA Council, payments were made directly to the NFA central office and that no other buyers were allowed to submit bids. INQ

TAGS: NFA, rice, Villar

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