Duterte gags NFA admin on rice issue

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 06 2018 03:45 PM

MANILA - Acknowledging that the National Food Authority’s (NFA) statements on the rice supply in the country “caused panic” among consumers, Malacañang said Tuesday President Rodrigo Duterte has tasked the inter-agency NFA Council to be the only one to speak on the matter.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the NFA’s earlier announcement that its buffer stock was only good for 2 days, way below the 15-day requirement at any given time, triggered price hikes even if the NFA’s stock only represented a “minority” of the country’s overall rice supply.

“The President said that henceforth all information on the country’s rice supply must emanate from the NFA Council,” Roque said in a news conference, referring to the inter-agency body led by Secretary to the Cabinet Jun Evasco.

“There was an acknowledgment that statements made by the NFA administrator caused panic, which probably caused prices to rise.”

Senators Cynthia Villar and Grace Poe have urged NFA administrator Jason Aquino to resign for supposedly mismanaging the affairs in the agency.

Poe earlier noted that a Senate hearing on the reported shortage of NFA rice found that Aquino removed port officers tasked to prevent smuggling attempts of the staple.

Villar, on the other hand, said the NFA failed in its mandate to buy "palay" or unmilled rice from farmers at P17 per kilogram and sell milled rice to consumers at around P27 to P32.

The agency worsened the situation when they announced their failure, triggering panic among the public about a perceived rice shortage, Villar said.

Roque said Duterte has ordered a cabinet cluster meeting, to be attended also by Aquino, be held on the matter.