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DA assures adequate manpower to continue NFA ops

MANILA: The Department of Agriculture (DA) on Tuesday said there is adequate manpower to continue the operations of the National Food Authority (NFA).

This came following the implementation of the Ombudsman’s preventive suspension order against 139 officials and employees amid the probe into the alleged improper sale of the rice buffer stock.

During the Bagong Pilipinas Ngayon briefing, Agriculture Assistant Secretary Arnel de Mesa said the NFA still has over 1,000 personnel who will work under DA Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr., who temporarily took over the NFA leadership.

“Sinisigurado namin na iyong mga papalit ay magkaroon din ng kapangyarihan o authority para iyong mga warehouse ay mananatili in operations sa pamimili sa ating mga magsasaka (We are ensuring that those who will take place shall be granted powers or authority to keep the warehouses operating in terms of buying [palay] from our farmers),’ he said.

De Mesa said those who are next in line shall temporarily replace the function of susp
ended officials.

The suspended officials include NFA administrator Roderico Bioco, assistant administrator for operations John Robert Hermano, 13 regional managers, 26 branch managers and 99 warehouse supervisors.

The NFA is set to conduct an emergency council meeting on Wednesday to ensure the continuous purchase of palay from local farmers amid harvest season.

Commendable move

The Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG), meanwhile, lauded the move of the DA shortly after reports of the questionable transaction surfaced.

‘Talagang kino-commend natin si (We are truly commending) Secretary Laurel for his decisive action,” SINAG Executive Director Jayson Cainglet said in a radio interview.

“Actually, bago pa iyong Ombudsman decision kahapon. Last week, sinabi niya na mag-leave muna iyong mga involved na persons (before the decision of the Ombudsman yesterday, he already advised the involved persons to take a leave [of absence] last week),” he added.

Cainglet insisted that the transaction, besides havi
ng no bidding, is highly disadvantageous to the government.

‘PHP23 binili ng NFA ang palay, binenta PHP25 as bigas. Tapos ang impormasyong nakarating satin itong PHP25 per kilo na bigas ay naibenta ng PHP52, so doble (the NFA bought palay for PHP23 [per kilogram], sold at PHP25. Then we received information that it was sold at PHP52 [per kg], so it’s double),” he said.

Cainglet said that instead of select traders, this could have been sold to the DA’s Kadiwa stores or the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

This could have alleviated price pressures and benefited poor Filipinos, he added.

The DA, meanwhile, vowed to fast-track the probe alongside a collaboration with the Office of the Ombudsman.

‘Sinasabi rin ng ating kalihim, Secretary Tiu Laurel Jr. na hindi na ito mauulit (Our Secretary Tiu Laurel Jr. said this shall not happen again),” De Mesa said.

“All of the necessary safeguards will be put in place and those who will be proven to have a problem shall face the law,” he added in m
ixed English and Filipino.

To date, both the DA’s internal panel of investigators and the Ombudsman are conducting a probe into the alleged improper sale of 75,000 bags of NFA buffer stock rice worth over PHP93.7 million.

Source: Philippines News Agency