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Saturday, June 22, 2024

The big winners

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“The sudden NEDA decision that caught farmers like a bolt of lightning from the heavens has been immediately criticized by presidential sister, Senadora Imee Marcos…”

What a silly mistake.

A friend called me and noted I must have written Sadat after Anwar to refer to the Malaysian PM in last Thursday’s article titled “Is ASEAN listening?”

I couldn’t get myself to thinking I made such an error, but, later, when I checked my files, indeed, I wrote Sadat (the late Egyptian president) after Anwar instead of Ibrahim. Later, a reader pointed out the mistake in the comments section.

My bad. Sometimes we write in haste, and forget to edit or clean our copy before sending. Sorry about that.

***

My attention was called to a rather obscure agency created by RA 9996 in 2010 — the Mindanao Development Authority, because of a controversy arising from the replacement of its chairperson who carries Cabinet rank, Maria Belen Acosta by Leo Tereso Magno, a friend from Erap days.

Acosta filed a petition in court questioning her sudden replacement by Magno, as the law provides the chairperson “shall serve a term of six years from the date of his/her appointment unless removed for cause” (Sec.7 of RA 9996).

The Executive Secretary informed Acosta her “term of office was terminated for cause due to the loss of trust and confidence in you on the part of the appointing power.”

I do not know Madam Acosta at all, but this writer thinks there is merit in her questioning her abrupt replacement, because the specific provision of the law creating MINDA negates mere presidential prerogative as appointing power.

Not that I want to rain on Leo’s parade, so to speak. He used to be Phividec CEO appointed by President Noynoy Aquino, but was later replaced by President Duterte although Le, as friends call him, is personally known to FPRRD, coming as he does from a family with long-developed roots in Davao City.

Yet Phividec, unlike MINDA, is a GOCC with no legally-protected provision for term of office.

Removal for cause requires the appointing power gives the appointee reason for his/her termination, and that involves a legal process, not mere exercise of prerogative.

***

I had started to write a long article on rice, proposing a long-term view of the problem, which is both economic and political, which I wanted to serialize in this space, when all of a sudden, the NEDA, where the President is the chairperson, announced through Director-General Arsenio Balisacan, the reduction of tariffs on rice and other items from 35 to 15 percent.

The move is quite understandable as the rice price conundrum has been haunting the administration for months on end, being the main cause of headline inflation that has persisted for three quarters, without clear sight of an end.

It also follows first quarter surveys indicating a huge drop in the President’s approval rating, and the main cause is the spiraling of the price of rice, among other food items.

But what I cannot understand is why a temporary slash in tariffs by more than 50 percent, as earlier floated by DOF Secretary Ralph Recto as a possibility, had suddenly become “until 2028,” or till the end of the president’s term of office.

It implies government has given up on the “aspiration” to achieve self-sufficiency in the staple, as repeated by his agriculture and irrigation agency officials over and over again.

This is on top of another “aspiration” which is really an “impossible dream” — 20 peso per kilo rice.

The sudden NEDA decision that caught farmers like a bolt of lightning from the heavens has been immediately criticized by presidential sister, Senadora Imee Marcos, who asked if the government wants to “kill” palay farmers, in favor of traders and importers.

Who are the big winners? The traders who also import, obviously. And the losers? Why the palay farmers, obviously.

Just before Congress recessed, the House railroad express passed a bill amending the Rice Tariffication Act, with intent to restore NFA’s powers to import and regulate the rice industry.

That bill now awaits Senate action, and while Congress is on recess, Malacanang drops the guillotine blade on tariffs.

What gives? What is the real plan on rice, if any?

This is a good prologue to a series on rice that I intend to write in the coming days.

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