After Evasco, Go meeting, will NFA issue be resolved soon?
After reports of a rift between Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr and Special Assistant to the President Bong Go, the two met up, apparently to have a talk, in Davao City.
In another encounter in Bohol, the two even posed for Palace photographers to dispel any notion that there was any issue between them.
One of the fruits of their talks, according to Rappler sources, was the arrangement of a meeting between President Rodrigo Duterte, Evasco, and economic advisers about rice importation.
During the meeting, Duterte is expected to be briefed about the issues surrounding the National Food Authority (NFA). But Palace sources say there is no set date yet for the meeting.
Shake-ups in the NFA were what led Duterte to publicly fire Evasco’s trusted undersecretary Halmen Valdez. Evasco was supposedly very disappointed with the President’s move and resolved to speak with him personally about the issue.
Hours after Duterte arrived from his Middle East trip on Monday, April 17, Go and Evasco met up in Davao City to have a chat. Two days after, on Wednesday, Duterte made a last-minute invitation for Evasco to join him and other Cabinet officials in a security briefing in Tagbilaran, Bohol.
Palace photos of the briefing blasted to the media tried to downplay the reported differences between the two officials. Photos showed Evasco and Go smiling as they brandished twin Duterte “closed fist” gestures. In some photos, Go even has his arm over Evasco’s shoulder.
The photos were also sent by Malacañang with the caption: "Contrary to reports that there is a rift between Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr and Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence Go, they insist that they have a healthy working relationship."
It was an obvious attempt to assure the public that all is well between them. But it was known among some in the Palace that Evasco had been smarting over Valdez' dismissal, for which he was not even consulted, and his lack of access to Duterte. Go controls the President's schedule and appointments as head of the Presidential Management Staff.
A meeting to brief Duterte on the complex issue of rice importation is critical at a time when differences between Evasco and NFA Administrator Jason Aquino threaten food security and stability of rice prices. (READ: Dismissed Usec Valdez to Duterte: Probe 'NFA syndicate')
Evasco, backed by NFA Council members, seeks to extend the deadline for rice imports of private rice traders to arrive in the country. These rice imports were approved under the World Trade Organization’s Minimum Access Volume scheme but were delayed because of pending requests to Aquino and delays in filling up boats with imported rice from their countries of origin.
Aquino, meanwhile, refuses to extend the deadline for private rice importers, and is instead pushing for immediate government-to-government transaction of rice, which the NFA Council denied. (READ: Who is NFA chief Jason Aquino and why is he controversial?)
Duterte, when he fired Valdez, seemed convinced that the extension of deadline for private rice imports being sought by the NFA Council is disadvantageous to Filipino farmers. (READ: 'Poor card' used on Duterte to muddle rice importation issue)
Will the stand-off between Aquino and other members of the NFA Council, led by Evasco, be resolved soon?
The country’s rice stocks depend on the matter. In the end, Duterte will have to make a decision, one that the country can only hope will be informed and fair. – Rappler.com
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