Replacing NFA's Jason Aquino not enough, say senators
MANILA, Philippines – While some senators welcomed President Rodrigo Duterte's pronouncement that he is looking for a new person to replace Jason Aquino as head of the National Food Authority (NFA), they said this is only the first step to address the country's rice woes.
"While asking NFA Administrator Jason Aquino to resign is a good step, more needs to be done to arrest the rising prices of rice," Senator Francis Pangilinan said on Tuesday, September 11.
Pangilinan also urged Duterte to "acknowledge" the rice crisis. He asked the government to explain the high prices despite the availability of the grains in local markets.
"[What] we need are quick and concrete responses to this gut issue," he added.
Meanwhile, Senator Risa Hontiveros said Duterte "should snap out of his fantasy with destabilization plots, roll up his sleeves, and start working."
She said Duterte's proposals to prevent prices of goods from soaring further are "vague" and lost in "stories of destabilization plots."
She also pointed out that the President's order to raid warehouses of rice hoarders isn't new.
Consumer group Bantay Bigas, meanwhile, welcomed Aquino's exit from the NFA. (READ: Who is NFA chief Jason Aquino and why is he controversial?)
"Tama lang na tanggalin si Aquino at dapat noon pa dahil hindi niya pinatupad ang mandate ng NFA. Wala siyang nagawa sa napakataas na presyo ng bigas," said Cathy Estavillo, Bantay Bigas head.
(It is just right to replace Aquino and it should have been done long ago, as he was not able to fulfill the mandate of the NFA. He did nothing to address the high prices of rice.)
But it shouldn't stop there, Estavillo said, as she called for charges to be filed against Aquino.
"Dapat panagutan niya ang ginawa niya, damay rin si Presidente (Aquino should be held accountable, the President too)," she added.
Rappler tried to reach NFA spokesperson Rex Estoperez for comment, but he has yet to reply as of posting.
Rice prices soared under Aquino's watch due to the late arrival of imports.
Some of the imported rice were infested with bukbok or weevils and had to be fumigated. – Rappler.com