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Angie M. Rosales

Poe calls for resignation of NFA administrator

Thursday, 01 March 2018 00:00 Published in Metro

Sen. Grace Poe yesterday called for the resignation of National Food Authority (NFA) Administrator Jason Laureano Aquino, saying the appointee of President Duterte has failed in carrying out his task.

“Sa aming pagdinig, kulang ang kanyang pag-eksplika kung bakit nangyari ito at paano ito maiiwasan muli. Kaya kung mayroon siguro siyang delicadeza o konsiyensya, ito ay malaking kakulangan sa kanyang trabaho— siguro pwede naman siyang magbitiw,” Poe said, referring to Tuesday’s hearing at the Senate on the status of rice supply in the country.
Aquino’s dismal performance, she said, has resulted in the rise in the prices of rice in the country and in ensuring that there’s enough buffer stock at any given time to make sure that traders would not take advantage of the farmers.
The senator urged President Duterte to consider tapping a better replacement of Aquino.
In giving her own assessment, the senator said the NFA chief was not able to deliver what was expected of him.
“At malaking epekto ito lalung-lalo na sa ating mga kababayan na konti lang nga ang kinikita, ang laki pa ng dinagdag ng presyo ng bigas. Ang trabaho mo sa NFA ay masiguro na yung presyo nga sa merkado ay di magkaganun. So para sa akin malaking kakulangan at sana magkaroon din ng ibang pampalit ang Presidente na kaya talaga ang trabaho. Mayroong kakayanan na gawin ang nararapat,” Poe said.
“Hindi niya ginawa yung part niya dahil doon lamang sa napakinggan natin yung ating mga magsasaka hindi nabibilhan ng NFA. Tapos sinasabi niya na wala namang pagkukunan pero salungat doon sa mga naging resource persons natin yung kanyang pahayag,” she added.
Poe also found questionable the leadership shown by Aquino, especially when it was he who recalled the NFA-designate personnel assigned to check rice imports at ports and alleged meddling in local procurement.
Poe noted during Tuesday’s Senate hearing that a certain Marigold de Castro is supposedly in charge of rice-related businesses in Region 3 and purportedly acts as front for the NFA chief while a cousin of Aquino allegedly acts as enforcer of his directives and has a direct hand in employees’ transfer if they’re defiant of his orders.
“Para sa akin, malaki ang pagkukulang at sana hindi naman tayo siguro nagkukulang ng tao na pwedeng gumawa ng trabaho na iyan kung mamarapatin ng ating Pangulo ay palitan ng mas magaling,” she said.
“Ang sinabi ni Sen. Cynthia (Villar) ay ito, bakit mo pinagmamalaki pa na may kakulangan na nagkaroon tuloy ng takot sa merkado ang ating mga kababayan. Tila yata gusto niyang mapayagan ang pagiimport na kailangan naman talaga pero ang ibig kong sabihin, ano bang imbentaryo, bakit ka nagkulang? Hindi mo ginawa noon pa? So, doon lamang iniisip ko nga, may mga nagrereklamo na hindi daw pino-post yung mga nabibigyan ng permit mag-angkat, dapat iyan ay transparent, kapag pinagsama-sama mo iyan, sa tingin ko, hindi niya nagagampanan ang kanyang trabaho,” Poe added.
At the same hearing, Poe also cited a number of individuals who have continuously cropped up as having been involved in alleged illegal activities at the NFA and Aquino admitted some of them were employed in the agency.
Poe moved to invite the Department of Justice and the National Bureau of Investigation to the next hearing to shed light on cases filed against the purported big-time rice smugglers.
The government had so far filed three cases against suspected rice smugglers and illegal importers in Cebu, Subic, Zamboanga under Republic Act No. 10845 or the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016, a result of the earlier Senate inquiry under the previous Congress.
It was also revealed that the Bureau of Customs still failed to fully account for the smuggled sacks of rice in Zamboanga after two months which, according to Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura chair Rosendo So, were only 40,000 bags from the original 60,000 at the time the government flagged the shipment.
The NFA was put on a spotlight after it said its buffer stocks of cheap rice were running low. Aquino said it only had 1.7 days of existing stock, as against the mandated 15-day buffer stock at any given time and 30 days at the onset of the lean months of July to September.
The heavily subsidized state-run grains agency will import 250,000 metric tons of rice mainly from Vietnam and Thailand to replenish its stock.

Agriculture secretary: No rice shortage, but...

Wednesday, 28 February 2018 00:00 Published in Nation

Department of Agriculture (DA) officials yesterday belied the repeated pronouncements of National Food Authority (NFA) on the alleged depleted rice supply of the agency, saying that there’s really no rice shortage in the country.

DA Secretary Emmanuel Piñol yesterday told senators looking into the status of the country’s rice supply that the problem is concentrated only on the buffer stock of the NFA as supply of commercial rice is more than enough to last for the first quarter of the year.
“As of today the rice sufficiency rate is 96 percent. Our projection by next year it would increase to 97 percent.... Let me just this very clearly, there is no rice shortage in as far as the country is concerned. in fact if we were to measure, the rice sufficiency rate on a quarterly basis for the last quarter of 2017, we were 2.7 million metric tons over the requirements so this quarter, we will be 3 million metric tons,” the DA secretary said.
“(So) you agree no that there’s no rice shortage?” Sen. Bam Aquino, during the hearing called by the committee on agriculture and food in joint with the ways and means and finance committees, asked.
Piñol acceded to the assertion of Sen. Cynthia Villar, agriculture committee chairman, that there’s sufficient rice supply.
“Rice supply is sufficient, not sufficient is the NFA’s buffer stock,” Villar commented.
“Yes. If we were to compute on a quarterly basis, the Philippines rice sufficient right now,” Piñol said.
It was Sen. Risa Hontiveros inquired on the matter given the claims made by the NFA that their buffer stock will only last for less than two days or way below the required 15-day buffer stock.
Meanwhile, NFA Administrator Jason Laureano Aquino found himself in a hot seat as Senate probers berated for allegedly causing panic among the public on rice supply problem due to his repeated pronouncements on the diminishing buffer stock.
“You don’t make such announcement to cause panic to the people. ‘Yan ang sinasabi sa yo eh (That’s what we told you). You don’t even have a strategy. I mean if you cannot do your job, keep quiet. Don’t make us panic,” Villar told Aquino.
The senator, who was presiding the hearing pointed out that it’s part of the mandate of the NFA to secure or purchase from the local rice traders to ensure that it maintains the 15-day buffer stock as prescribed by existing policies.
Villar could not help but express publicly her suspicion that Aquino is merely out to compel the NFA Council to accede to the NFA’s request to allow them to import rice by claiming that the agency’s buffer stock will last for only 1.7 days.
Senators Nancy Binay, Bam Aquino, Grace Poe and Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan also took turns in giving the NFA chief a beating, noting how such pronouncements stirred a spike on commercial rice.

Senate arrest order out vs ex-Comelec chairman

Tuesday, 27 February 2018 00:00 Published in Metro

Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III yesterday ordered the arrest of former Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Andres Bautista, having been declared in contempt after he refused to attend the hearings of a committee looking into his alleged ill-gotten wealth and possible violations of the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA).

As of this writing, the Office of the Sergeant-at-Arms (OSAA), according to OSAA chief retired Brig. Gen. Jose Balajadia, is in the process of forming a team as process servers.
They have been directed to proceed to the given addresses and effect the arrest of Bautista and bring him to the Senate immediately after to have him detained within the confines of the upper chamber building.
If they fail in finding Bautista in any of the addresses known to the committee on banks, financial institutions and currencies which sought for the issuance of the said warrant, they will immediately return to the upper chamber and submit a report to the Senate President, Balajadia said.
The said warrant was signed by Pimentel last February 21 but it was received by Balajadia’s office at 1:43 p.m. yesterday.
“You are hereby commanded to Atty. Juan Andres Bautista of Unit 3a/b South Tower, Pacific Plaza Towers, 4th Avenue and 25th Street, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City and who stands in contempt of the Senate when he disobeyed the subpoena of the committee on banks, financial institutions and currencies by not appearing on Feb. 12, 2018, as commanded by this committee and to bring him before this committee as soon as possible to be dealt with subject to the Rules of Procedure Governing Inquiries in Aid of Legislation of the Senate,” the order, sought by Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero and approved by Pimentel, said.
Escudero, banks committee chair, sought the issuance of the said arrest order after Bautista failed anew to appear the Senate hearing last February 12 despite the issuance of a subpoena.
Asked on whether Bautista has already returned to the country, Escudero said “I have reason to believe that he is still out of the country.”
In the last Senate hearing, Escudero said Bautista has clearly shown his attempt to stifle their proceedings given his obvious defiance of the Senate orders.
Bautista claimed that he did not receive any invitation as he had been out of the country since November 21 last year, exploring career opportunities and seek medical attention.
Escudero, however, said there’s no showing that Bautista left the country as records from the Bureau of Immigration (BI) showed that he returned home on November 1 and has no record on his departure after the said date.
Bautista’s estranged wife, Patricia, publicly disclosed his alleged undisclosed wealth, including alleged numerous bank accounts, which could reach P1 billion.
Patricia’s allegations that her husband appeared to have amassed supposed ill-gotten wealth when he was already Comelec chairman prompted a probe in the Senate and impeach moves in the House of Representatives.
In the last hearing, Escudero said Bautista can be arrested anytime when he arrives in the country and unless he expunges himself and the only way he can is if he issues a waiver on bank secrecy together with his siblings who are his co-depositors.


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