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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

DA chief creates panel to investigate ‘collusion’ between NFA, rice traders

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THE Department of Agriculture (DA) will look into possible collusion between the National Food Authority (NFA) and some traders who sold thousands of metric tons of affordable rice at prices disadvantageous to the government.

Meanwhile, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) maintained that distributing cash grants is more practical and efficient that giving bags of rice worth P600 per month to Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) beneficiaries.

Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel has created a panel to conduct the investigation, particularly on charges that the NFA agreed to sell milled rice at P25 a kilo without prior bidding.

“We do not brush aside reports of impropriety against officials of the Department of Agriculture, regardless of the source. We also welcome any government agency who may wish to conduct their own probe to ferret out the truth,” Laurel said.

The NFA reportedly purchased the palay from farmers at P23 per kilo.

“We are custodians of government funds—monies to be spent for the benefit of Filipinos, especially farmers and fisherfolk. Taxpayers’ money shouldn’t be squandered to line anybody’s pockets,” Laurel added.

The DA chief noted that farmers and fishermen have been a neglected sector, while some officials tasked to look after their welfare have been focusing instead on enriching themselves.

The DA stressed that the harshest measure should be inflicted on people, groups and organizations, who profit at the expense of farmers and fisherfolk , as well as the Filipino consumers.

“After discussion with the Department of Agriculture, we made it clear to them that this is not feasible because of the logistical requirements which may not be convenient with the beneficiaries,” DSWD Assistant Secretary Romel Lopez told reporters during a news forum dubbed Traditional Media Service.

DA officials have proposed to President Marcos to actually give away rice to be supplied by the NFA instead of the P600-rice subsidy for 4Ps beneficiaries into  rice to be supplied by the National Food Authority (NFA), saying the scheme would  “ease the price pressures of the market in terms of buying high-price rice.”

Lopez said the P600-monthly rice subsidy is given to qualified 4Ps members on top of their education and health grants upon compliance with specific conditions such as sending their children to school, bringing them to health centers for regular check-ups, and attending Family Development Sessions.

“There is also no provision in the General Appropriations Act for the purchase of rice, thus, there is no legal cover to begin with,” Lope4z said said.

“With no legal cover, there is no need for discussion with the National Advisory Council (NAC),” he added.

The NAC is composed of members from different government agencies that include the DSWD, the DA, the Department of Health, the Department of Education, the Department of Labor and Employment, and the Department of Trade and Industry, among others.

Editor’s Note: This is an updated article. Originally posted with the headline “NFA faces investigation on possible mismanagement of rice stocks.”

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