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Senator scolds NFA chief on rice buffer stock

Jason Laureano Aquino —GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE

Sen. Cynthia Villar scolded the administrator of the National Food Authority (NFA) for the agency’s press releases announcing that its buffer stock was low.

“Don’t make such announcement to cause the people to panic,” Villar told of NFA Administrator Jason Laureano Aquino. “You don’t even have a strategy. I mean if you cannot do your job, just keep quiet.”

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Villar, chair of the agriculture and food committee, said she had seen NFA officials making repeated announcements on the low buffer stock.

“Why are you so proud that you haven’t done your job?” she said at the second public hearing of her committee on the NFA and the supply and price of rice.

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15-day buffer stock

The Senate is looking into the rice stock of the NFA, which earlier said that it could not meet the 15-day buffer requirement as its stock was good for only five days.

But at the hearing, Aquino said the NFA buffer stock had gone down to 1.7 days.

Assistant Secretary Mercidita Sombilla of the National Economic and Development Authority said she could not understand why the NFA was saying it had a very low buffer stock.

Sombilla noted that the NFA reported last month that its rice distribution had gone up to 245 percent.

“Where did it go?” Sen. Francis Pangilinan said, referring to the increase in the volume of NFA rice.

Not rice but price

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A rice trader said it was “not the NFA rice that was missing in the market” but affordable NFA price.

“NFA rice is being sold as commercial,” said Herculano Co Jr., president of the Confederation of Grains Retailers Association of the Philippines.

Villar appealed to President Duterte to issue an executive order to donate to the NFA seized smuggled rice “so we can sell a lot [to the public].”

Deputy Customs Commissioner Edward James Dy Buco said the Bureau of Customs had seized 10 containers of smuggled rice in Subic, 40,000 bags in Zamboanga, and 32 containers of the staple in Cebu.

Villar said there was no shortage of rice in the commercial market. “The NFA was just not able to buy for its buffer stock.”

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said the country had sufficient rice produced domestically.

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TAGS: Cynthia Villar, Francis Pangilinan, Jason Laureano Aquino, Mercidita Sombilla, NEDA, NFA rice supply, rice buffer stock
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