Pangilinan to replace some underlings

Report by Anthony Taberna, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 07 2014 04:16 PM | Updated as of May 08 2014 05:49 AM

MANILA - Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization Secretary Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan is set to replace some officials of agencies placed under him.

He, however, clarified that there will be no major revamp of the agencies.

When asked if he is firing the heads of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), National Food Authority (NFA) and the Philippine Coconut Authority (Philcoa), Pangilinan did not respond categorically but confirmed that the Palace search committee is looking at some names.

He also would not name who would be axed until he has talked to them and discussed the matter with Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala.

"Kailangang malaman kung sino ang puwedeng makatulong kung kakailanganin ng mga tao. At least handa tayo. Di naman puwedeng andyan na saka pa lang maghahanap. Meron tayong papalitan. Di ko muna sasabihin kung sino hanggat di nakakausap si Secretary Procy at yung mga apektado," Pangilinan said.

The new official said major reforms should be implemented at the NIA and NFA, two of the agencies that he is tasked to oversee, as these are embroiled in controversies.

Pangilinan has asked the help of Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson to fast-track the implementation of irrigation projects that are crucial in increasing rice production.

He acknowledged that rice smuggling and allegations of overpricing of imported rice are tough issues to address.

Relatedly, Pangilinan said he will investigate the claim of former NFA Administrator Romeo David that the latest rice importation of NFA is "overpriced" by some two billion pesos.

Earlier, David questioned why NFA rushed the bidding of 800,000 metric tons of rice from Vietnam at a higher price when it could have waited as the prices in the world market continue to slide.

Pangilinan said officials will be held accountable if irregularities are discovered during the investigation.

In a text message, NIA Administrator Claro Maranan said he will step down if he is told to do so.

He said his term is up to June 30 or 1 year after his assumption to office.

NFA Administrator Orlan Calayag, a protege of Secretary Alcala, did not respond to an ABS-CBN query.