NFA chief, deputy liable for graft, says council
THE National Food Authority Council will hold food officials liable for making a cash cow out of government-led importations, Cabinet Secretary Leoncio B. Evasco Jr. said Monday.
“I will propose to the [NFA] Council the creation of a special committee to investigate the culprits of this flagrant corruption to the detriment of the country’s food security,” said Evasco who is also ex-officio chairman of the council.
He said there had been a reported connivance between the Grains Marketing Operations Department of NFA Deputy Administrator Ludovico Jarina and NFA Administrator Jason Aquino.
“It has come to the council’s attention that Jarina and Aquino have been holding closed-door meetings even prior to Aquino’s appointment as NFA administrator,” Evasco said.
He said the council had long been requesting copies of the terms of reference of all international and domestic cargo handlers of government rice importations but to date, the NFA management had refused to furnish the council with them.
“It creates serious doubt on the part of the NFA Council when some of the NFA’s executives have been insisting on G-to-G procurement despite the lack of a recommendation to import from the National Food Security Committee,” Evasco said.
“We have received a copy of Aquino’s letter to the Vietnam Embassy informing the latter that the Philippine government will open a state-to-state importation this month [March] for its buffer-stock. That letter was sent to the Vietnam Embassy behind the council’s back,” Evasco said.
“So who is or should I say “are” really earning whenever the NFA undertakes a G-to-G transaction? The NFA Administrator who merely assumed office last January has the audacity to go behind our back and even deliberately defy the council’s decision?”
Evasco said participating countries were prone to giving in to NFA executives’ request for favors.
“This arrangement seems to be more prone to what I call “government sanctioned smuggling” since the NFA, through the GMOD, identifies the supplier for rice. Its management appears to “recommend the cargo handler.
“This does not go through the regular procurement process [RA 9184] since cargo handling is considered the supplier’s choice. Hence, the suppliers may be forced to give in to those recommended by NFA to get a quota.
“Alleged rebates are taken from cargo handling, which when overpriced bloats the price of rice to the prejudice of our poor citizens. Thus the NFA can easily get away with the overloading if they also control the cargo handler.”
Evasco earlier said that Aquino was facing serious disciplinary sanctions that could lead to his removal over his repeated defiance of the lawful orders of the NFA Council.
He said Aquino’s willful disregard of the Council’s decision to extend the rice importation under the Minimum Access Volume system was offensive to the country’s food security.
But Aquino said the local farmers’ produce should be given priority over private importation.
“We have no intention at all to defy the Council. Our decision not to extend the MAV came in even before the Council issued a Resolution extending it. We had communicated this concern with the Office of the Cabinet Secretary as early as February 24, 2017 and we are awaiting their reply,” Aquino said.