Bam Aquino says abolition of NFA Council opens NFA to corruption
Two opposition senators on Friday questioned the order of President Rodrigo Duterte to abolish the National Food Authority Council saying that it would not address the problem of increasing rice prices in the country.
Sen. Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV said the President’s decision to abolish the NFA Council -which serves as the policy-making body of the NFA – has only removed the corruption safeguards in the agency.
“The government has removed safeguards to corruption and abuse in the NFA. Without the NFA Council, the orchestrators of this rice crisis will continue to make questionable decisions with impunity,” Aquino said in a statement.
Duterte has ordered the abolition of the NFA council to fast-track the agency’s importation of rice.
The verbal order was made by the President during a meeting with industry stakeholders on Thursday, which Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco said was meant to seek the help of traders and retailers in maintaining the country’s rice supply.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan meanwhile said the abolition of the NFA Council was a “huge mistake” and would “turn a blind eye to allegations of corruption and “condones incompetence and mismanagement” by NFA Administrator Jason Aquino.
Pangilinan said that it should be Aquino who should be “replaced and removed from the equation” if the government is serious in addressing incompetence and smuggling.
The senator pointed out that under Aquino’s leadership, NFA port officers tasked to guard against rice smuggling were removed and despite recorded releases and testimonies of NFA-accredited retailers, “rice stocks disappeared in the market.”
“This is unprecedented in the 45-year history of the NFA. At a Senate hearing, farmers and retailers also testified under oath that NFA rice was being diverted to and re-bagged and sold as commercial rice at double the price by select traders. All these are prima facie evidence of corruption,” Pangilinan said in a separate statement.
“’Magdildil sa asin’ (Make good with salt) is a catchphrase because it reflects a sad reality that government is duty-bound to erase. Gutom ang dapat i-abolish, hindi ang NFA Council (Hunger should be abolished, no the NFA Council),” he said.
“Many of our poor are women and children, farmers and fishers. Sila ang nagdidildil ng asin. Maling-mali ito (This is so wrong),” he added.
Pangilinan said that the NFA Council, which was created under Presidential Decree 4, as amended by PD 1770, serves as a watchdog against corruption in rice, including rice smuggling. Its abolishment could only be done by law, not by any executive decree. /muf
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