January 14, 2011
The national center of government employees COURAGE, whose member includes the National Food Authority Employees’ Association (NFAEA), said the people were robbed not just once or twice but even thrice on the reported overpriced importation of rice by the NFA during the past 3 years.
In a statement, COURAGE National President Ferdinand Gaite stressed the people are already feeling the brunt of the high prices of rice since the grains agency pulled-out the P18.25/kg NFA rice in the market. The billions of pesos representing the balooning debts of the NFA as a result of the overimportation of rice since 2004 are also to be passed on to the people. “And now, what could be worst than knowing that the overimported rice and grains were even overpriced. Former President Arroyo and NFA officials’ heads should not only roll but the billions of pesos should be justly returned to the people”.
The NFA in its report to the Palace revealed imports were overpriced by as much as $60 to $125 per metric tons during the last 3 to 10 years. In July this year, President Aquino on his State of the Nation Address (SONA) acussed the Arroyo administration of overimportation of rice that caused the National Food Authority (NFA) debt to balloon to P177 billion. The overimportation also led to the waste of excess rice as the commodity ended up rotting in warehouses.
But COURAGE is sensing there’s more to the report than meets the eye.
“We believe that the real intention of the report is not to to prosecute the corrupt officials who benefitted from the overpricing and overimportation. The bottomline is the Aquino government who is hell-bent on implementing its Public and Private Partnership Programs is targeting the ultimate privatization of the NFA. They are planning to initially separate the trading and regulatory functions of the NFA and then privatized its trading operations ”, Gaite said.
Santiago Dasmarinas Jr., COURAGE 1st Vice President and an employee of the NFA added “In the first place, privatization is to be blamed for the losses being incurred by the NFA today. When the Arroyo Administration under the NFA’s “Farmers as importers Program“ allowed businesses in the guise of pseudo-farmers cooperatives to import as much as 200,000 metric tons, the government in turn shouldered the fees, tariffs and other costs. The overpriced and overimported rice ended up not on the warehouses of the government but on the rice cartels and the commissions and kickbacks on government officials’ pockets ”.
The leader said the NFA employees are opposed to privation because rice is a staple food, a basic right of the people. “It is not just a question of the job security of its 5,000 plus emplyees but the people’s food security”.
Ferdinand R. Gaite, national president
Santi Dasmarinas, secretary-general