NFA needs ‘absolutely honest’ chief: Palace

MANILA MalacaAang said Wednesday the next National Food Authority (NFA) administrator should be absolutely honest and able to cope with the country's rice supply problems.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this remark after President Rodrigo Duterte bared on Tuesday that NFA administrator Jason Aquino wanted to be relieved from his post.

Duterte, in a televised interview, said Aquino wanted out since he could no longer cope with the demands within the food agency.

The President said he is already looking for Aquino's replacement.

Kinakailangan ng isang absolutely honest NFA administrator. Kinakailangan talaga na ang angkat ng bigas ay makarating doon saintended beneficiaries lalong lalo na yung intended para maging NFA rice (We need an absolutely honest NFA administrator. We need to make sure imported rice reaches the intended beneficiaries, especially those intended for NFA rice), Roque said in a Palace briefing.

Kinakailangan din siguro po isang lider na kakayanin yung kalakalan at babaguhin ang kalarakan diyan sa NFA (We also need a leader who can cope with the practice and can change the practice at the NFA), he added.

Roque, meanwhile, clarified Duterte's earlier statement that he will be recommending the abolition of the NFA's policy-making body, the NFA Council.

Literally, he said NFA Council but you cannot abolish a council without amending the law that created the NFA because the council was provided in the same law that created the NFA, he explained.

Roque said Duterte possibly meant that he did not want to completely abolish the NFA but only wanted one body to make decisions on the country's rice supply.

"You could interpret it as possibly the President not wanting to completely abolish NFA, because ang sabi niya dapat isa lang nagde-desisyon (he said that there should only be one making the decisions) but doing away with the council," he added.

In a separate press briefing, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Undersecretary Ruth Castelo said there was no definite word from the NFA about replacing Aquino but noted that any NFA Council member can give directions to NFA for it to function.

When asked what she expected from the NFA's new administrator, Castelo said she hoped for speeder transactions.

If directions will be given by the NFA Council, and this will be strictly complied with, mas mabilis iyong magiging aksyon (action will be faster), I would think, she said.

Roque, meanwhile, reiterated that the Philippines has sufficient rice with a total of 4.6 million sacks of rice available in NFA warehouses that will be released immediately.

There are also two million sacks of rice that will arrive before the end of September, and the NFA Council has also approved the importation of five million sacks that will arrive over the next one-and-a-half months, he said.

In addition, 2.7 million sacks will be allocated to Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi (Zambasulta) while another five million sacks of rice will be imported early next year, he added.

Aside from importation, Roque said the government is also going to simplify and streamline the licensing procedures for rice imports of the NFA.

He said there will also be monitoring teams for surveillance of rice from ports to NFA warehouses and outlets.

MalacaAang will urge the Senate to pass the Rice Tariffication Bill within the month.

Roque said the Economic Cluster Group will submit to the Office of the President a draft executive order, removing administrative constraints and non-tariff barriers on importation of fish, rice, sugar, meat, and vegetables.

Ibig sabihin, gagawin nilang mas simple po iyong proseso ng pag-aangkat ng pagkain (This means that the process of importing food will be much simpler), he added. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency