NFA head faces sanction for impeding rice importation orders – Evasco

MANILA, Philippines – Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco said National Food Authority (NFA) administrator Jason Aquino will face disciplinary sanctions after failing to implement the NFA council's order on extending rice importation through the minimum access volume (MAV) scheme.

“The NFA administrator has actively refused to implement the lawful orders of NFAC [National Food and Agriculture Council] and directives of the Cabsec [Cabinet Secretary] to publish and has even released a press statement countering the NFAC's decision that MAV has been extended to March 31," said Evasco in a statement released Sunday, March 5.

He added: "Instead, what were posted were extensions only for India and Pakistan, when the Council explicitly granted extension to all sources of origin." 

Evasco, who heads the anti-poverty agencies by virtue of President Rodrigo Duterte's Executive Order 1, is the ex officio chairman of the NFA council.

The NFA administrator serves as the council's vice chairman. Other members of the council includes the governor of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), chair of the Development Bank of the Philippines, the president of the Land Bank of the Philippines, the Finance Secretary, the Trade Secretary, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), and a representative from the farmer sector.

According to Evasco, the council has agreed during a meeting last February 27 that they will extend the MAV importation to March 31 from February 28. He said only Aquino – or any NFA representative – was absent during the meeting of the council members.

NFA in debt

Extending the MAV importation, Evasco explained, aims to save NFA from its debts and "revert it to its former glory as a self-sufficient GOCC [government owned and controlled corporation]." (READ: How to discourage rice smuggling

He said Aquino's failure to implement the order "is compromising the country’s food security, and showing his penchant for creating more debts at the expense of the NFA."

The NFA administrator earlier proposed to import buffer stock through government-to-government transaction instead of MAV to boost industry stocks.

But BSP deputy governor Diwa Guinigundo argued this would leave the NFA in debt.

"When you import via government-to-government, the NFA would again incur debt, while MAV importation is paid for by the private sector," said Guinigundo.

"As per NEDA, in two months time the country’s harvest season will begin. For this reason, the NFA Council (except for Aquino), being more aligned with the Duterte’s administration’s thrust to support the farmers, deemed it best if the NFA would purchase its buffer stock directly from the local farmers instead of resorting to importation," he added.

After disciplinary sanctions, Evasco said Aquino will eventually be removed from office.

“It seems to us that he does not have even the slightest understanding of his Office and even undermining the NFAC’s authority that were causing serious prejudice to the country’s food security. We are afraid he is not fit for the job. He must be dealt with accordingly,” said the Cabinet Secretary. – Rappler.com