Speaker backs abolition of NFA policy-making body

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 08 2018 12:33 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte presides over a meeting with the NFA Council at the Malacañan Palace on March 19, 2018. Joining the President is NFA Council chair and Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr. Toto Lozano, Malacanang Photo

MANILA - House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Sunday expressed support for President Rodrigo Duterte's bid to scrap the policy-making body of the National Food Authority amid an impending shortage in the supply of subsidized rice. 

"Para sa akin, hindi na siguro kailangan iyung council-council. Mayroon naman tayong NFA administrator. Kung gawin talaga niya ang trabaho niya, wala naman sigurong magiging problema," Alvarez told DZMM. 

(For me, perhaps we no longer need the council. We have an NFA administrator anyway. If he does his job, there won't be any problem.) 

Duterte last week ordered the abolition of the NFA Council headed by Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco to fast-track the importation of rice. 

The inter-agency council disapproved in January a request by NFA administrator Jason Aquino to import 250,000 metric tons of rice to address a shortage in grain buffer stocks. Duterte ordered the NFA a day after to go ahead with the importation, which is expected to arrive in May. 

Alvarez said he will study if a law is needed to abolish the NFA Council, which was created under Presidential Decree 4, as amended by PD 1770. 

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Several lawmakers had opposed the NFA Council's dissolution, saying this will remove corruption safeguards in the state grains agency. Senator Francis Pangilinan, in particular, noted that the move would "turn a blind eye" to allegations of corruption and mismanagement against Aquino. 

Traders had testified in a Senate inquiry last February that under Aquino's leadership, NFA port officers tasked to guard against smuggling were removed, and that subsidized grain was re-bagged and sold as commercial rice in some areas. 

Senator Grace Poe, meanwhile, brought up allegations that Aquino used 2 employees to carry out questionable orders. 

The NFA administrator had denied any wrongdoing.