DA chief clarifies NFA role in rice importation

MANILA Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Manny PiAol said Monday the National Food Authority (NFA) will relax rules on rice importation, but clarified that this did not mean that licensing and accreditation will no longer apply.

PiAol said the NFA's policy-making body, NFA Council, will soon come out with guidelines on importation as directed by President Rodrigo R. Duterte, based on what is legal and prescribed by the law.

You cannot just say that NFA will have no more role in the importation because that would effectively throw away the mandate of NFA into the wastebasket, PiAol said in a Palace briefing.

Luluwagan namin yung importation pero meron pa ring mga prosesong susundin (We will relax importation but there is still a process that needs to be followed), he added.

Former Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque earlier said the NFA will no longer have to accredit rice dealers or determine how much rice to import.

PiAol, however, clarified that the process of licensing and accreditation of rice imports still stands.

That cannot be because under the law it's still NFA that will accredit the importers, PiAol said. Full liberalization means you allow importation to come in but still based on guidelines as prescribed by law."

PiAol said he did not want to discredit Roque's statement but noted that the President never used the words unimpeded importation.

Indeed he said 'let's flood the market with rice' but to say that importation will be unimpeded would mean throwing away all of the rules in the book and allowing just about everybody to load rice to the boat and bring rice to the Philippines, PiAol said.

He added that though the words unimpeded importation was never used by the President, the Chief Executive directed them to make sure that there would be sufficient rice supply.

Last month, Duterte signed Administrative Order (AO) 13 to streamline procedures on the importation of agricultural products, including rice.

Alongside this order, Memorandum Order (MO) Nos. 26, 27, and 28, were also signed to stabilize the prices of basic agricultural commodities at reasonable levels and maintain their sufficient supply in the domestic market.

PiAol said Duterte's statement to flood markets with rice was simply a reiteration of AO 13.

Meanwhile, PiAol emphasized anew that there was never an instance of a rice shortage in the country, however admitted that there were indeed rising prices of rice set by traders.

There was never any instance that we ran out of rice. Ang problema is naging abnormal ang presyo sa merkado (The problem is the prices of rice became abnormal), he added. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency