Saturday, May 18, 2024

Senators Want OP, DA To Intervene In Local Rice Market, Not NFA

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Senators Want OP, DA To Intervene In Local Rice Market, Not NFA

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Senators Imee Marcos and Cynthia Villar on Tuesday called on Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. for the agency, or the Office of the President, to assume the power to intervene in the local rice market, without the help of the National Food Authority (NFA).

The senators made the appeal during the public hearing of the Congressional Oversight Committee on Agricultural and Fisheries Modernization, which is currently reviewing the implementation of Republic Act 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL).

Senator Marcos also recommended the creation of a Presidential Commission on Rice Sufficiency.

“Pwede ring task force, commission pero hindi naman kailangan na sa pang araw-araw na pagtatakbo, ang Pangulo ang makikialam. Maaari namang yung ating kagawaran mismo ang tututok diyan (It can also be a task force, a commission, but it is not necessarily the president who intervenes in the day-to-day operations. The DA can focus on that),” she said.

“Huwag lang NFA kasi naririnig pa lang namin, eh nangangatog na yung tuhod namin (Not the NFA because the mere mention of it makes our knees shake),” Senator Marcos said.

Her suggestion stemmed from the alleged anomalous sale of NFA rice to select traders at a low price, and without public bidding or authorization from the NFA Council.

She said NFA should only focus on its present main mandate, which is buffer stocking.

Villar agreed, saying NFA should just utilize the billions of pesos of subsidy being given by the national government to boost buffer stock.

“May PHP9 billion a year sila to do buffer stocking. Hindi naman pinupulot ang PHP9 billion (They have PHP9 billion a year to do buffer stocking. PHP9 billion is not just being picked up somewhere). And that PHP9 billion never returns to the government. It’s always with them. Kaya kung iniipon mo yung PHP9 billion na yun, eh marami ka nang pera ngayon (So if you saved that PHP9 billion, you have a lot of money now),” Villar said.

Secretary Laurel assured the senators that the agency is open to their suggestions and will consider them as long as the government can be authorized to intervene in the market “from time to time.”

“Kagaya ngayon PHP55 to PHP60 ang presyo. Dapat ang import cost is PHP49, PHP48 lang eh. So dapat yan PHP51 to PHP52 lang eh. Kailangan naming mag-release slowly sa market at market price or wholesale price from time to time (As of now, the price is PHP55 to PHP60. The import cost should be PHP49, it’s only PHP48. So that should only be PHP51 to PHP52. We have to release slowly in the market at market price or wholesale price from time to time),” Laurel explained.

Last week, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. announced that he would certify as urgent the bill proposing to amend RTL, citing the need for the government to have control over or influence the local rice market. (PNA)