Villar opposes restoring NFA power to trade rice

Villar opposes restoring NFA power to trade rice

By: - Reporter / @santostinaINQ
/ 05:00 AM May 13, 2024

Villar opposes restoring NFA power to trade rice

Sen. Cynthia Villar SENATE PRIB PHOTOS

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Cynthia Villar on Sunday opposed the proposal of the House of Representatives to restore the power of the National Food Authority (NFA) to directly import and sell rice.

“I don’t want to give it to the NFA. If the President wants it, he should just be given a special power. [The mandate] should just be placed under the Office of the President,” said Villar, chair of the Senate committee on agriculture and food, in a radio interview.


“I’m worried about giving [the mandate] back to the NFA. I’ve not seen its sincerity. It has not proven itself to be taking care of the welfare of the rice farmers and the consumers,” she added.


READ: Scrutinize plan to re-allow NFA to buy and sell rice, senators say

Villar also recalled how she and other senators have tried buying rice from the NFA for calamity victims in Mindanao, and they were told the NFA has no stocks, only to find out the agency sold the rice stocks to traders.

Two panels of the House of Representatives on Tuesday approved a substitute bill amending Republic Act No. 11203, or the rice tariffication law (RTL), particularly on restoring the role of the NFA in stabilizing rice prices, a day after President Marcos certified the measure as urgent.

Key provisions in the bill include the reinstatement of the NFA’s price stabilization and supply regulation functions; authorizing the agency to buy locally milled rice and directly import rice, as necessary, to ensure sufficient rice buffer stock and regulate grains warehouses in the country; and extending the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund for another five years.

READ: Ex-DAR chief wants NFA to return to ‘buy high, sell low’ rice system

Divergent proposals

Instead of amending the RTL, Villar said it would be better if lawmakers would move for the passage of the Anti-Agricultural Economic Sabotage Law, as provided in Senate Bill No. 2432, which was already approved by the Senate in December 2023 and certified as urgent by Mr. Marcos.


On March 20, 2024, lawmakers from both chambers of Congress went to a prebicameral conference for the bill.

“[But] they don’t want to approve it in the bicam level. They were not saying anything. They were not approving it, when it was actually certified as urgent,” Villar lamented, referring to the House of Representatives.

NFA acting Administrator Larry Lacson earlier outlined his plan to install closed-circuit television cameras in their warehouses and to subject NFA personnel holding sensitive positions to regular rotation.

“But he’s just alone,” Villar said, referring to Lacson. “[The problem] runs in the whole department.”

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“In 2019, there was a plan to abolish the NFA but there were 4,000 employees who would lose their jobs, so I did not agree. The government then offered early retirement packages and half of them availed of it. I hope the government offers another early retirement package for the rest of the employees,” Villar said.

TAGS: Cynthia Villar, NFA, RA 11203, RTL, SB 2432

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