MANILA - Senators Cynthia Villar and Imee Marcos on Wednesday grilled the chief of the National Food Authority (NFA) for the agency’s failure to sell some 4 million bags of imported rice in its warehouses.
NFA administrator Judy Carol Dansal admitted that 290,000 metric tons imported rice, equivalent to 4 million bags containing 50 kilograms each, have yet to be sold.
Dansal made this admission after being pressed by Marcos, who said the NFA failed to buy the rice and palay of local farmers because they still have stocks.
“Kaya kayo hindi bumibili o nagbebenta kasi santambak pa ‘yung imported,” Marcos told Dansal during a Senate agriculture panel hearing.
(The reason you are not buying local rice is you have so much imported ones with you.)
Dansal explained, the NFA imported 1.25 million metric tons (MT) of rice in April and some 290,000 MT remain in warehouses.
Sen. Cynthia Villar, chair of the Senate agriculture panel, then recalled a time when the NFA, under then administrator Jason Aquino, sold “spoiled” rice to certain traders.
This prompted Marcos to suggest that these transactions were prone to corruption.
“Idedeklarang bulok tapos io-auction sa mga paboritong trader? Huwag naman po,” Marcos said.
(You will declare it as spoiled and sold it to your favorite traders? Please don't do that.)
Marcos said as per her computation, if there are some 4.5 million bags of rice sold at P27 per kilo, the NFA would earn over P6.075 billion.
“Ang dami n’yong pera kung ibebenta ninyo ng paspasan. Huwag hintayin na kunwari mabubulok at io-auction,” she said.
(You will earn so much if you will vigorously sell it. Don't wait for the stock to get spoiled and then sell it at an auction.)
Villar, meanwhile, shared that a governor recently complained to her that the NFA was selling rice to the local government at P37 per kilo.
“Pagbutihan n’yo ang trabaho nyo. Yung mga tao banas na banas na sa inyo,” an irate Villar said.
(Do your job well. The people are really mad at you.)
Minority Sen. Risa Hontiveros, for her part, said the government must act swiftly to address the negative impact of the Rice Tariffication Law, which liberalized the importation of rice to the country to address the soaring inflation and rice supply shortage.
The law, Hontiveros noted, provides for a P10 billion assistance to farmers called the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund.
She said the RCEF would have to go through several years of implementation before improved competitiveness could be achieved. But the “income shock” due to the law was felt immediately, she warned.
Hontiveros said that according to her office's computations, around 42,000 farming households will fall into poverty if faster subsidies are not provided for by the government.