Re­or­ga­ni­za­tion re­turns NFA to con­trol of DA

Business World - - THE ECONOMY - — Ar­jay L. Bal­in­bin, Reuters

AGRI­CUL­TURE Sec­re­tary Em­manuel F. Piñol will take over as chair­man of the Na­tional Food Au­thor­ity (NFA) coun­cil af­ter a gov­ern­ment re­or­ga­ni­za­tion that brought the NFA back un­der the con­trol of the Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture (DA), the pres­i­den­tial spokesman said.

“Since the NFA is again an at­tached agency of the DA, there is no need for the Of­fice of the Pres­i­dent to be in the Coun­cil,” Her­minio L. Roque, Jr. said in tele­vised brief­ing in Bo­ra­cay on Tues­day, April 17.

Mr. Roque was re­fer­ring to the NFA’s for­mer sta­tus as an agency con­trolled by the Of­fice of the Pres­i­dent. The NFA Coun­cil’s for­mer chair­man was Cab­i­net Sec­re­tary Leon­cio B. Evasco, Jr.

In a state­ment, Mr. Piñol said that along with the NFA, “the Philip­pine Co­conut Au­thor­ity (PCA) and the Fer­til­izer and Pes­ti­cides Au­thor­ity (FPA)” will also be placed un­der the DA’s con­trol.

“As Agri­cul­ture Sec­re­tary and on be­half of peo­ple work­ing with me, we ac­cept the added re­spon­si­bil­ity and chal­lenge. The re­turn of these three agen­cies to DA will fur­ther strengthen the depart­ment’s ca­pa­bil­ity to un­der­take its mis­sion to pro­vide avail­able and af­ford­able food for the Filipino peo­ple,” Mr. Piñol said.

He said the DA will en­sure that the NFA will build up its rice buf­fer stock to a level good for at least 60 days’ con­sump­tion, in ac­cor­dance with a pres­i­den­tial di­rec­tive.

Reuters re­ported that Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo R. Duterte or­dered the NFA to build up its buf­fer stock to 60 days, by buy­ing more lo­cally pro­duced grains and im­ported va­ri­eties.

It said a 60-day buf­fer stock is equiv­a­lent to a re­serve of as much as 1.92 mil­lion tons. The NFA had an in­ven­tory of only 43,500 tons, or less than two days of na­tional con­sump­tion, as of last month.

“Buy from the Filipino farm­ers first and if you can­not find suf­fi­cient stocks to be bought at the price ap­proved by the NFA Coun­cil, that’s the time you source it through im­por­ta­tion,” Mr. Duterte told NFA man­age­ment on Mon­day night, ac­cord­ing to Mr. Piñol.

In a meet­ing with the NFA Coun­cil, Mr. Duterte also di­rected Fi­nance Sec­re­tary Car­los G. Dominguez III to help pro­vide funds for NFA’s lo­cal rice pro­cure­ment pro­gram, say­ing he would like the agency’s ware­houses “filled to the roof” to en­sure suf­fi­cient sup­ply, Reuters quoted Mr. Piñol as say­ing.

The coun­cil, com­posed of gov­ern­ment eco­nomic man­agers, has ap­proved the pur­chase by the NFA of 250,000 tons via a ten­der open to in­ter­na­tional traders and sup­pli­ers, for de­liv­ery start­ing May, ahead of the lean sea­son start­ing July.

The NFA is also set to buy an­other 250,000-ton ship­ment in a gov­ern­ment-to-gov­ern­ment deal with Viet­nam or Thai­land, for de­liv­ery start­ing next month.

Mr. Duterte also di­rected the NFA to in­crease its buy­ing price for do­mes­tic rice to raise the buf­fer stock, Mr. Piñol said in a state­ment posted on his Face­book ac­count.

Ac­cord­ing to Mr. Roque, the Pres­i­dent an­nounced the re­or­ga­ni­za­tion of the NFA Coun­cil dur­ing a meet­ing at the Palace on Mon­day, April 16.

At the meet­ing, the Pres­i­dent also au­tho­rized “the im­por­ta­tion of 250,000 MT through gov­ern­mentto- gov­ern­ment ( G2G) mode to re­plen­ish the rice in­ven­tory. Im­ported rice is set to ar­rive soon.”

Mr. Roque also said that a coun­cil mem­ber, the De­vel­op­ment Bank of the Philip­pines (DBP), “has re­quested to be re­lieved from the Coun­cil, so that it may fo­cus on its other projects, which re­quest was ap­proved. The Depart­ment of So­cial Wel­fare and De­vel­op­ment (DSWD) will take the place of DBP.”

For his part, Mr. Evasco said: “I fully re­spect the de­ci­sion of the Pres­i­dent given the en­com­pass­ing na­ture and im­pact of the Na­tional Food Au­thor­ity on the Filipino peo­ple and the farm­ers.”

“We have put in place sev­eral pol­icy guide­lines that have pro­vided a more trans­par­ent, com­pet­i­tive, in­clu­sive and ac­count­able sys­tem of pro­cure­ment and dis­tri­bu­tion of NFA rice as a re­sult of more than 20 coun­cil meet­ings since my des­ig­na­tion by the Pres­i­dent as NFA Coun­cil Chair.”

Mr. Evasco said he “be­lieves that NFA can now move for­ward to­wards en­sur­ing that cor­rupt, ex­clu­sive and debt-rid­den prac­tices dur­ing the past ad­min­is­tra­tions will not reign in the next transactions to pass.”

A WORKER repacks im­ported rice grains at a Na­tional Food Au­thor­ity ware­house in Que­zon City.

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