NFA-NE­GOCC em­ploy­ees hold ‘Red Wed­nes­day’ protest on tar­if­fi­ca­tion

Sun Star Bacolod - - Business - BY ER­WIN P. NICAVERA

MEM­BERS of the Na­tional Food Author­ity (NFA) Em­ploy­ees As­so­ci­a­tion-ne­gros Oc­ci­den­tal chap­ter yes­ter­day staged a “Red Wed­nes­day” protest to ban­ner their strong op­po­si­tion against the pro­posed rice tar­if­fi­ca­tion law.

The em­ploy­ees brought with them plac­ards as they chant “No to RA 1998” at the agency’s provin­cial of­fice in Ba­colod City.

Se­nate Bill 1998, spon­sored by Se­nate Com­mit­tee on Agri­cul­ture and Food chair­man Sen­a­tor Cyn­thia Vil­lar, is be­ing pushed by the ad­min­is­tra­tion to ad­dress the ris­ing in­fla­tion.

The bill seeks to lift quan­ti­ta­tive re­stric­tions on rice and al­low pri­vate traders to im­port rice from coun­tries of their choice. It is also seen to lib­er­al­ize ex­por­ta­tion of the sta­ple com­mod­ity.

Mav­er­ick Misajon, presi- dent of Nfa-ne­gros Oc­ci­den­tal Em­ploy­ees As­so­ci­a­tion, told Sun­star Ba­colod that the “Red Wed­nes­day” protest sig­ni­fies the “bloody” fight of NFA em­ploy­ees and man­age­ment against the “anti-farmer and anti-peo­ple” pro­vi­sions of the bill.

Misajon, also the re­gional pres­i­dent of NFA Em­ploy­ees As­so­ci­a­tion in Western Visayas, said the tar­if­fi­ca­tion will abol­ish the reg­u­la­tory func­tion of the NFA as well as its so­cial man­date to pro­vide qual­ity yet cheaper rice in the mar­ket.

“The free en­try of cheaper rice from other coun­tries will neg­a­tively im­pact Filipino farm­ers as they can­not com­pete be­cause of their higher pro­duc­tion cost,” he said, adding that like what hap­pened with the oil dereg­u­la­tion law “it will al­low pri­vate peo­ple to have con­trol over the food sec­tor par­tic­u­larly rice in­dus­try.”

On Novem­ber 26, the em­ploy­ees con­ducted a “Black Mon­day” protest to also show con­dem­na­tion against the leg­is­la­tion and unity for the NFA.

Misajon said the protests in the prov­ince are aligned with the move­ment con­ducted by em­ploy­ees as­so­ci­a­tions in Luzon.

On Tues­day, the NFA Em­ploy­ees As­so­ci­a­tion in Metro Manila is­sued an open let­ter to Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte de­nounc­ing the en­act­ment of the rice tar­if­fi­ca­tion law.

The group con­demns the bi­cam­eral con­fer­ence com­mit­tee meet­ing on Novem­ber 22 that agreed to re­tain most of the “ob­jec­tion­able pro­vi­sions” of Se­nate Bill 1998.

“The rec­on­ciled ver­sion vir­tu­ally de­cap­i­tated the vi­tal sta­bi­liza­tion and reg­u­la­tory func­tions of the govern­ment’s food agency,” it said.

The em­ploy­ees as­so­ci­a­tion claimed that the ab­sence of sta­bi­liza­tion and reg­u­la­tion will ex­pose the rice in­dus­try to abuses of un­scrupu­lous grains busi­ness­men.

They said the ab­sence of govern­ment con­trol will lead to chaos and spawn a more pow­er­ful rice car­tel in the coun­try.

Ris­ing in­fla­tion and wors­en­ing poverty re­quire a strong food agency that will en­sure the avail­abil­ity of af­ford­able sta­ple food for the poor and the con­tin­ued vi­a­bil­ity of the liveli­hood of lo­cal rice farm­ers, it added.

Misajon said that, aside from these neg­a­tive im­pacts, one of their great­est fears, once the tar­if­fi­ca­tion bill will be­come a law, is the pos­si­ble job dis­place­ment of NFA em­ploy­ees.

In Ne­gros Oc­ci­den­tal, there are 37 mem­ber-em­ploy­ees in­clud­ing provin­cial man­ager Frisco Canoy as an as­so­ciate mem­ber.

“The op­po­si­tion against rice tar­if­fi­ca­tion is sup­ported by our man­agers and re­gional di­rec­tor,” he said, adding that “we are also calling on Ne­grense con­gress­men and sen­a­tors to sup­port us in this con­tin­u­ous bat­tle.”*

CON­TRIB­UTED PHOTO

SOME of the mem­bers of Nfa-ne­gros Oc­ci­den­tal Em­ploy­ees As­so­ci­a­tion dur­ing the “Red Wed­nes­day” protest at the agency’s provin­cial of­fice in Ba­colod City yes­ter­day.

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