MANILA - Former National Food Authority (NFA) Administrator Angelito Banayo on Wednesday said he only followed orders from Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala when he gave rice import permits to farmers' groups.
Banayo, in a press statement Wednesday, said granting rice import permits to farmers' cooperatives "was a policy matter insisted upon by the Secretary of Agriculture who chaired the NFA Council, in spite of my objections."
He said he questioned the policy, which started during the Arroyo administration.
The National Bureau of Investigation is recommending charges against Banayo, businessman Davidson Bangayan alias "David Tan," and 10 others for rice smuggling.
Bangayan is accused of bid fixing.
Criminal charges are recommended against Banayo and members of the NFA's Special Bids and Awards Committee for allegedly allowing rice traders or importers to corner the NFA import allocations through farmers' organizations.
The charges are scheduled to be filed on Thursday.
Banayo, however, said that import permits issued by NFA during his term were awarded through a transparent bidding process approved by the NFA Council headed by Alcala.
He added that the NFA earned a record P4.5 billion in service fees during his term. "At the same time, supply and prices of both NFA rice at P27 and commercial rice at a band of P30 to 35 pesos per kilo was stable," he said.
Banayo said the Bureau of Customs was also involved in the pre-qualification of prospective bidders of import permits, with I-Care accrediting companies and cooperatives wanting to join the NFA bidding process.
Banayo was NFA administrator from July 2010 up to October 30, 2012 when he resigned from his post to run for a congressional seat in Butuan City. He lost.
He said the NFA, as an implementing arm of the Department of Agriculture, was "duty bound to comply with such policy despite his being vocal against such policy."
Banayo said it was in April 2011 when the NFA was given final instructions to bid.
He said as per NFA records, 379 organizations participated. He added that the bidding was publicly conducted and lasted for 60 hours.
“The strict prequalification of bidders underwent thorough scrutiny not only from NFA officials but by the bidders themselves. Documents submitted attesting to the genuineness and veracity of organizations were issued by government agencies such as but not limited to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Department of Trade and Industry, Cooperative Development Authority, National Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Bureau of Customs,” Banayo said.
He said that the primary mandate of NFA is to ensure the steady and stable supply and price of rice.
“This, with all due respect, NFA was able to do under my watch, though imperfect any system in government there may be. Other agencies equally have their own roles to play and NFA is not the primary agency tasked to check and prevent smuggling, although it can certainly help in preventing such,” Banayo said.
Banayo said he found it strange that Bureau of Customs officials were not among those being recommended charged by the NBI.
“I do hope and pray that a thorough and impartial investigation based on facts and law will clear up matters the soonest,” he said.