“This situation may lead to chaos and further manipulation of the supply and price of the staple by unscrupulous traders.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Employees of the National Food Authority (NFA) are calling on President Rodrigo Duterte to veto the rice tariffication bill.
The bill, which replaces the quantitative restrictions on rice with tariff, is expected to be signed by Duterte soon.
Coming from different parts of the country, at least 700 NFA employees staged a protest action last January 17 at the foot of Chino Roces (formerly Mendiola) bridge.
Maximo Torda, president of the NFA Central Office Employees Association, told Bulatlat that the rice tariffication bill essentially renders the agency inutile.
Torda said that 400 NFA employees would lose their jobs. With the full implementation of the bill, he said that the rest of the 4,000 regular employees could be retrenched.
The bill repeals some of the provisions of Presidential Decree No. 4 titled “Providing for the Development of the Rice and Corn Industry, and Creating the National Grains Authority.”
Under the bill, government’s rice buffer stock will only be for emergency and disaster relief. The NFA will no longer maintain stock for stabilization of supply and price at the consumer level especially during lean months.
The average volume of NFA rice for disaster relief operations is about 30,000 metric tons or 600,000 bags a year.
The palay pricing support of the NFA, which is meant to provide farmers with ready market and reasonable income, will be scrapped.
The agency’s licensing and regulatory powers will also be repealed. At present, there are close to 90,000 NFA-licensed grains retailers.
In its position paper, the Coalition of Farmers’ Organizations, Unions, Retailers and Rice Millers to Protect the Philippine Rice Industry (Fourr Protect) said, “This situation may lead to chaos and further manipulation of the supply and price of the staple by unscrupulous traders,” adding that “rice being the staple food can now be imported practically by anybody without any government regulation while minor commodities like galunggong, onion, garlic, sugar and many others are controlled/regulated through the issuance of import permits/clearances.”
Consumers at the losing end
Since the NFA will no longer have the power to order seizure of rice and corn in cases of hoarding or cornering, Torda said, “there’s nothing left so much for us to do.” He stressed that the consumers stand to lose if the tariffication bill is enacted. Aside from that, Torda said 10 million poor families are dependent on NFA rice priced at P27 per kilo.
Fourr Protect branded as a lie Senator Cynthia Villar’s statement that the NFA can still sell cheaper rice even with the passage of the bill, stressing that the Congress-approved rice tariffication bill removes price and supply stabilization from the NFA’s Charter.
“The stability of supply and prices of the staple food are too risky to be placed under the control of the manipulative big rice businesses in the country. This precisely precipitated the rice crises in the early 1970s, 1995, 2008 and 2018 as the government was then inutile to intervene with insufficient rice buffer stock,” Fourr Protect said.