NorthCot board probes huge transport of NFA rice

Reports reaching the board alleged the rice was transported outside of the province.

NFA Cotabato manager Anthony Mariano Bernad has confirmed the release but denied there was something 'fishy' in it.

In an interview, Bernad said it was its partner NGO, the Grain Retailers Confederation (GRECON) in North Cotabato that requested the release of the stocks.   

He, however, admitted the stocks were withdrawn from the warehouse without the knowledge of GRECON North Cotabato president Germelino Bacus.

Bacus said he was in Manila attending a seminar when the release took place.

He said the transport of stocks to other places requires his approval.

"I was surprised to know that in so short a time, the stocks that were released from the warehouse totaled to about 17,000. That was not the usual process," he said.

Bernad and Bacus were among those invited by the provincial board to shed light on the issue.

Earlier, Magpet Mayor Efren Pinol said there could be 'connivance' between the NFA and some 'unscrupulous' rice traders.  

"I am made to believe the release can never be carried out without people conniving to do it," he said in an interview.

Pinol said he has been receiving reports that stocks from the Cotabato NFA warehouse were transported to nearby provinces, including Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, and Davao del Sur.

"These reports are very disturbing and should call for a thorough probe and those responsible for doing it should be held liable," he stressed.

North Cotabato is known as the rice granary of Southwestern Mindanao. But local officials said the province is now experiencing shortage of rice supply.   

"It worried us of so much when we knew of the release of these thousands of NFA bags of rice. The NFA should have made sure there would be enough supply of rice for North Cotabato since we're now on the lean months," said Pinol. (MindaNews)