Evasco removed from NFA Council

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has stripped Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr. of his role as the chairperson of the 18-man National Food Authority (NFA) Council, Malacañang confirmed Tuesday, April 17.

In a press conference in Boracay, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. said Evasco was removed from the NFA Council a day after the President placed the NFA management under the supervision of the Department of Agriculture (DA).

"Because the NFA is now under the Department of Agriculture anew, Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco (Jr.) will no longer be part of the NFA Council," he said.

The announcement came amid the reported shortage of government-subsidized rice and the apparent strained ties between Evasco and NFA management administrator Jason Aquino.

Evasco earlier chided the NFA management for creating an "artificial" depletion of affordable rice reserve, saying that it might encourage private traders to "manipulate the presence of rice in the market."

During a meeting with the NFA Council on the night of Monday, April 16, Duterte announced that he wants the NFA to be returned under the DA's supervision.

The President, however, decided not to abolish the NFA Council.

The NFA management and the NFA council were both formed under Presidential Decree 1770 signed in 1981.

The NFA management makes proposals that are subject to the approval of the NFA Council to ensure the stability of supply and price of rice.

In a statement read by Roque, Evasco said he respects Duterte's decision and thanked the President for trusting him to lead the NFA Council for over a year.

"I would like to thank the President for designating me and giving me the opportunity to chair the NFA Council, as well as other members of the NFA council for the one-and-a-half-year governance work in the National Food Authority," Evasco siad.

"I have full respect with the decision of the President given the encompassing nature and impact of the National Food Authority," he added.

Agriculture Secretary Emmañuel Piñol, in a separate statement, said Duterte ordered the grains agency to raise the affordable rice's inventory from the current 15 days to 60 days and to procure more from local rice farmers.

The Finance department was directed to allocate funds for the NFA's local rice procurement program, as Duterte wants the rice agency's warehouses "filled to the roof" with sufficient rice stock, the Agriculture chief said.

"Buy from the Filipino farmers first and if you could not find sufficient stocks to be bought at the price approved by the NFA Council, that's the time you source it through importation," Duterte was quoted as saying.

"Fill those warehouses to the roof. I would rather see overstocks rather than go through another shortage of buffer stocks," he added.

Piñol said his department, the Department of Agriculture (DA), would undertake joint efforts with the NFA to increase procurement of the local staple.

"The DA will help NFA by identifying provinces where the buying price of palay is relatively low and the buying operations will be concentrated in those areas," he said. (SunStar Philippines)


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