Press Release
April 6, 2018

Statement of Sen. Kiko Pangilinan on abolition of NFA Council

Will the prices of rice go down with the abolition of the National Food Authority Council? For how long? Keeping a 15-day NFA buffer stock is to have affordable rice constantly available to Filipinos who are poor and can barely survive on intermittent jobs and minimum wage.

Why is the price of rice a political issue in the Philippines? Because for many of our countrymen, the 1 in 4 who are poor, rice is the only food they eat. "Magdildil sa asin" 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. Many of our poor are women and children, farmers and fishers. Sila ang nagdidildil ng asin. Maling-mali ito.

The balancing act of government is between keeping rice prices down for consumers and making rice farming viable for our farmers with fair buying price, among other things, like better farming technology and marketing support.

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. It was created precisely to guard against arbitrary or self-serving acts of the executive branch. As we see it, the NFA Council, with representatives from the NEDA, BSP, DoF, DTI, among others, acts as a check on the NFA administrator, who is currently embroiled in corruption and incompetence issues.

Moreover, abolishing the NFA Council cannot be done by any executive decree, it can only be done by law. Worse, abolishing the NFA Council turns a blind eye to allegations of corruption and condones incompetence and mismanagement by the administrator.

With NFA Administrator Jason Aquino at the helm, NFA port officers tasked to guard against rice smuggling were removed. 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.

If the government is serious in addressing incompetence and smuggling, it is the NFA administrator who should be replaced and removed from the equation, not the NFA Council. He and not the NFA Council should be removed from the public management of the country's rice supply.

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