MANILA –National Food Authority Administrator Jason Aquino is facing serious disciplinary sanctions that could lead to his removal over his repeated defiance of the lawful orders of the NFA Council.
In a statement, Cabinet Secretary Leoncio B. Evasco Jr., who is also the ex officio chairman of the NFA Council, said that Aquino’s willful disregard for the Council’s decision to extend the rice importation under Minimum Access Volume (MAV) system is offensive to the country’s food security.
“The NFA administrator has actively refused to implement the lawful orders of NFAC and directives of the Cabsec [Cabinet Secretary] to publish and has even released a press statement countering the NFAC’s decision that MAV has been extended to March 31. Instead, what were posted were extensions only for India and Pakistan, when the Council explicitly granted extension to all sources of origin.
It is not for him [as NFA administrator] to decide whether an extension of MAV is proper or not, let alone as to which sources of origin is entitled thereto. It is a decision, which the NFA Council has to make as a collegial body. We [Council] have made a decision, and we made it very clear, it is extended up to March 31,” Evasco said.
NFA is one of the 12 agencies that has been placed under the direct supervision of the Office of the Cabinet Secretary pursuant to Executive Order 1.
Such move aims to extricate the NFA from its debt-saddled status and revert it to its former glory as a self-sufficient GOCC, without deviating from its mandate of giving support to local farmers.
“However, his actions speak otherwise. He is compromising the country’s food security, and showing his penchant for creating more debts at the expense of the NFA,” the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) in a statement said.
Besides the Cabinet Secretary as chairman and the NFA Administrator as vice chairman, the other members of the NFA Council are governor of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, chair of the Development Bank of the Philippines, the president of the Land Bank of the Philippines, Finance Secretary, Trade Secretary, the NEDA, and a farmer sector representative.
Of the 10 members of the Council, nine were present during the Feb. 27 meeting and voted for the extension of MAV importation to March 31 from the original deadline of Feb. 28, while Aquino and none of the NFA management attended the meeting.
“Aquino by using my name has cancelled the first two NFA Council meetings, thus the Council was compelled to convene the third time last Feb. 27, during which he deliberately absent himself,” NFAC chairman Evasco said.
Evasco noted that the Council has thumbed down Aquino’s proposal to import buffer stock via government-to-government transaction in lieu of the purely private sector-led importation through MAV–intended to boost industry stocks.
“The difference between the two is, when you import via G-to-G, the NFA would again incur debt, while MAV importation is paid for by the private sector. Besides, as per NEDA, in two months time the country’s harvest season will begin.
For this reason, the NFA Council [except for Aquino], being more aligned with the Duterte’s administration’s thrust to support the farmers, deemed it best if the NFA would purchase its buffer stock directly from the local farmers instead of resorting to importation, Diwa Guinigundo, BSP’s deputy governor said in a statement.
Further, Aquino through a letter sent to Evasco said that extending the MAV importation by a month might open the floodgates for rice smuggling.
Reacting to Aquino’s letter addressed to Evasco, Edwin Paraluman, farmer sector representative to the NFAC said: “His fear of smuggling is extremely unfounded. A newlaw—Anti Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016 is already in place and is harsh enough to emasculate illegitimate traders. And it is the Bureau of Customs’ job not NFA’s.” We (the Council) think that the government through NFA should be our farmers’ first customer. Why don’t you buy your bufferstock from us instead of importing via g2g (government-to-government procedure_)? -NFAC farmer representative.
Thus, Aquino’s unjustified refusal to carry out the NFA Council’s decision would subject the latter to disciplinary actions, which could ultimately lead to his removal.
“It seems to us that he does not have even the slightest understanding of his Office and even undermining the NFAC’s authority that were causing serious prejudice to the country’s food security. We are afraid he is not fit for the job. He must be dealt with accordingly,” Evasco said.