KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/3 June) – Food security advocates in North Cotabato are set to stage picket rallies in front of the National Food Authority (NFA) here to show their disgust over the reported anomalies in the agency’s rice importation program.
The Task Force Food Sovereignty (TFFS), an alliance of food security advocates in the province, has urged Congress to conduct a full-blown investigation on the alleged multi-billion anomalies in the NFA and the supposed “unholy alliance” among officials in the agency, private traders, including commercial banks.
This “unholy alliance,” according to TFFS coordinator Abby Pato, has led to overpriced rice importation, huge debts and heavy losses.
Citing data from the audit report of the Commission on Audit (CoA), Pato said that the net losses of the NFA amounted to P100.921 billion from 2000 to 2009 and in 2010, the agency has incurred a legacy debt which stood at P176.8 billion.
In a press conference, the TFFS also scored the government’s thrust of privatizing the NFA, citing the reported corruption in the agency’s private sector-financed importation scheme which only “reinforces the cartel and the legalized smuggling in the industry.”
Pato said the recent CoA report proves that transferring the vital task of procuring the grain to profit-oriented private traders only puts the interest of the 90-million rice-eating Filipinos in danger.
“Congress should conduct a full-blown investigation on the unholy alliance among NFA officials, private traders and government and commercial banks that benefit from these dishonest trading activities which, in turn, put the consumers and taxpayers at a disadvantage,” said Pato
But Engr. Genaro S. Nuñez Jr., NFA assistant regional director, said the issue is not new. NFA Administrator Lito Banayo, he said, has created a team to audit the alleged anomalies. “If they have other ideas other than the audit, they are welcome to propose these to our administrator,” he said. (Malu Cadeliña Manar / MindaNews)