Over importation of rice bloated NFA's debts, says Aquino


Posted at Jul 26 2010 04:47 PM | Updated as of Jul 27 2010 03:21 AM


* No over importation in 2009, says former agriculture chief Arthur Yap

MANILA, Philippines - (1st UPDATE) The National Food Authority's (NFA) policy of importing rice has resulted in the agency's debts swelling to P171.6 billion in May.

President Benigno Aquino III, in his first state of the nation address or SONA on Monday, said NFA has been wasting money by overimporting rice, which he said would have been put to better use.

But  former Agriculture Secretary and now 3rd district representative of Bohol province Arthur Yap, refuted Aquino's allegations. He said that in 2009, the government of his former boss, President Gloria Arroyo, imported a volume that is substantially lower than what was proposed by an inter-agency committee.

Aquino cited several instances wherein the previous administration imported rice excessively.

He said that in 2004, rice supply was short by 117,000 metric tons (MT), but the NFA bought 900,000 MT. In 2007, the shortfall was 589,000 MT, but imports reached 1.827 million MT.

"Kahit ulitin mo pa ng mahigit tatlong beses ang pagkukulang, sobra na naman ang binili nila. Ang masakit nito, dahil sobra-sobra ang binibili nila taun-taon, nabubulok lang pala sa mga kamalig ang bigas, kagaya ng nangyari noong 2008. Hindi po ba krimen ito, na hinahayaan nilang mabulok ang bigas, sa kabila ng apat na milyong Pilipinong hindi kumakain ng tatlong beses sa isang araw?"

This year, the NFA imported a record 2.45 million MT as local rice production suffered due to the El Nino phenomenon which parched thousands of rice farms.

Aquino said the money being spent on importing rice which bloated NFA's debts, is enough to support the P12.7 billion budget of the judiciary for this year, the P29.6 billion programmed for conditional cash transfers in 2010, as well as the P130 billion needed to build new classrooms nationwide.

"Kasuklam-suklam ang kalakarang ito. Pera na, naging boto pa."

He said all alleged anomalous transactions of government agencies, including the NFA, will be investigated, and dealt with accordingly.
Yap took exception to Aquino's statement and said that there was no over importation last year. 

"Yung isyu ng 2009 is absolutely not true that we over imported. In 2009,  the import recommendation of  the inter-agency committee was 3.2 to 3.3 million MT. But despite typhooons Ondoy and Pepeng, the government only imported 2.3 million tons, so that is absolutely false and not true," said Yap.

Yap said he is all for uncovering irregularities, but said the new government must get their facts right.

"Who is not for searching for the truth? But sana, let's be fair."