Duterte doesn't want NFA chief Jason Aquino speaking on rice supply

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte wants only the National Food Authoriy (NFA) Council to make announcements about rice supply in the country.

This was among the major decisions made during the Cabinet meeting on Monday, March 5, Malacañang announced on Tuesday, March 6.

"The President said that, henceforth, all information on the country's rice supply must emanate from the NFA Council," said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque during a Palace press briefing.

This comes after senators slammed NFA Administrator Jason Aquino for making a public pronouncement on the shortage of NFA rice which caused panic among consumers and an increase in the prices of rice, a critical commodity for Filipino households.

This "misleading" claim of Aquino was discussed during the Cabinet meeting.

"There was an acknowledgment that statements made by the NFA administrator caused panic, which probably caused prices to rise," said Roque.

The NFA Council, members of which were present at the Cabinet meeting, explained that there is no rice shortage in the country. According to Roque, the Cabinet "agreed" this was the case.

"It was agreed that there is no rice shortage because the figure of only 1.5 days of rice was misleading. [The supply duration of] 1.5 days is only if it is NFA that is the only rice supplier in the Philippines, which is not the case," said Roque.

The NFA Council, chaired by Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr, explained that NFA rice constitutes only a small portion of the country's rice supply. Most of the supply is provided by commercial traders.

While Aquino was not present at the Cabinet meeting, Duterte ordered that he be asked to attend a Cabinet Cluster meeting in April.

The rift between Evasco and Aquino, said to be close to Special Assistant to the President Bong Go, is well known. When Aquino refused to comply with NFA Council orders on import permits for traders, Evasco wanted him fired. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.