Acting NFA chief also gets suspended over rice sale

Acting NFA chief also gets suspended over rice sale

/ 05:05 AM March 12, 2024

PHOTO: Workers on top of sacks of rice at an NFA warehouse. STORY: Acting NFA chief also gets suspended over rice deal

NOT SPARED | Two more officials of the National Food Authority have been suspended by the Office of the Ombudsman over the allegedly anomalous sale of its buffer rice stock to private companies. (INQUIRER FILE PHOTO)

MANILA, Philippines — The Office of the Ombudsman has suspended two more officials of the National Food Authority (NFA) amid an ongoing investigation into the allegedly anomalous sale of the government’s rice buffer stocks.

In a statement on Monday, the Department of Agriculture (DA) confirmed that recently appointed NFA officer in charge (OIC) Piolito Santos and Jonathan Yazon, acting department manager for operation and coordination, were also placed under preventive suspension in connection with the controversy.


Following their suspension, Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. will again sit as NFA administrator, while DA Director Larry Lacson will be the officer in charge as deputy administrator.


“We want to stabilize the situation at the NFA following the events of last week,” Tiu Laurel said. “We want to help NFA employees during these challenging times to continue to provide uninterrupted service, especially during this harvest season.”

In an order handed down on March 4, the Office of the Ombudsman ordered the six-month preventive suspension of NFA Administrator Roderico Bioco, along with 138 other officials and employees of the food agency, to pave the way for an investigation into the supposedly anomalous rice deal. Bioco was replaced by Santos who was appointed NFA OIC following an emergency meeting.

NFA mandate

Under the Rice Tariffication Act, the NFA is mandated to build a national rice buffer stock of around 300,000 metric tons by purchasing solely from local farmers. The rice is to be distributed during emergencies or calamity situations although the food agency is allowed to dispose of aging stocks without these conditions.

However, NFA Assistant Administrator for operations Lemuel Pagayunan claimed in a Feb. 12 letter-complaint to the Office of the President that Bioco and other officials sold 75,000 bags of rice worth P93.75 million to G4 Rice Mill San Miguel Corp. and NBK San Pedro Rice Mill—both private traders.

Pagayunan said the officials authorized the sale without the approval of the NFA Council, adding that the transaction did not undergo public bidding.


READ: NFA chief, 138 employees suspended over rice row

The DA stressed that Bioco and the officials had sold rice at a price “disadvantageous” to the government.

It was also revealed during a motu proprio inquiry held by the House Committee on Agriculture last week that the NFA buffer stock was sold for P25 a kilogram when the market price then was P70 a kilogram.

Lawmakers asked Bioco why the agency sold the rice cheaper to private corporations when it could have sold the stock to the government.

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Bioco replied that as NFA administrator, he was authorized to dispose of the rice without the NFA Council’s approval.

He further claimed that the food agency had been selling rice stocks to private traders without holding public bidding since 2021.

TAGS: anomalous NFA rice sale, National Food Authority

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