NFA confirms 'definite' job cuts due to rice tariffication

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 19 2019 09:52 AM | Updated as of Feb 19 2019 11:37 AM

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MANILA - The head of the National Food Authority lamented Tuesday the "definite" worker layoffs in the agency following President Rodrigo Duterte's approval of the rice tariffication law.

The NFA is tasked to stabilize prices by buying grain from farmers and selling it at P27 and P32, cheaper compared to commercial rice.

The tariffication law, which will replace the present quotas on rice imports with tax, removes the NFA's power to import and distribute cheaper grain, leaving it with the sole task of buying grain from farmers to maintain buffer stocks, said agency administrator Tomas Escarez.

Buffer stocks intended for calamities and emergencies should last for 15 days. Its management does not require many employees, he told radio DZMM.

With NFA's new role requiring less manpower, worker layoffs are certain, Escarez said.

"Iyun ang tiyak. Pero ipinangako naman ng ating kahapon sa NFA Council saka DBM na kung sakaling maapektuhan sila, magkakaroon naman ng compensation package para roon sa sakaling mawalan ng trabaho," he said.

(That is certain. But the NFA Council and the Department of Budget and Management promised us yesterday that there will be a compensation package for those who will lose their jobs.)

Escarez, who started working for the NFA as a laborer 40 years ago, said he cried over the looming worker layoffs during flag rites on Monday.

"Alam ko po ang naging sakripisyo ng ating mga kawani at nalulungkot ako na sandali lamang ang mga paghihirap nila sa loob ng 46 years, kung saan naglingkod sila during calamities and emergencies, ay bigla na lang mababalewala," he said.

(I know the sacrifice of our employees and I am sad that their perseverance for 46 years, in which they served during calamities and emergencies, will be swept aside suddenly.)

The tarrification law, he said, will "directly affect" 400 employees of the industry regulation division, as well as those tasked with operations.

The NFA leadership wrote to Duterte and lawmakers to warn of the measure's "far-reaching" implications, said Escarez.

"Hindi naman kami nagkulang dito na ipaalam sa mga authority... Pero kung sa tingin nila ay makakatulong sa mas marami itong gagawin nila, sumusunod naman kami rito," he said.

(We did not come short in explaining to authorities. But if they think that what they'll do will benefit more people, we will obey it.)

The NFA will continue selling rice until August, he said.