By MORTZ C. ORTIGOZA
“If National Food Authority's Administrator Jason Aquino signed the approval of the three import permits of rice while he fought for the suspension of its importation through the private sector as they prejudice the price of palay in the middle of the harvest season, was Aquino a hypocrite? My poser to anti-smuggling Samahang Industriya Agrikultura (SINAG) chair when he guested recently my radio program.
|EX-ARMY MAN. NFA Administrator Jason Aquino used to be|
an Army man. A graduate of the Philippine Military Academy's
Class of 1991.
Rosendo So told me Aquino has a problem.
“Iyon ang isang problema. Kung hinde mo na aprubahan lahat, huwag mo aprubahan,” he stressed.
In his squabble with a cabinet Secretary Leoncio “Jun” Evasco Jr. and Undersecretary Maia Chiara Halmen Valdez, Aquino, a PMYer and recommendee of Paulo Duterte, argued as reported by the media that the importation of rice could pull down the price of palay in the middle of a bumper harvest season in March and April this year.
Because of that rift, an angry President Rodrigo Duterte unceremoniously sacked Valdez last April 5 because she threatened the livelihood of poor Filipino farmers.
“Why only sacked Valdez, why not the principal too Evasco?” I asked myself then.
But many were jolted by Aquino’s double speaks when we learned that he had approved last March 10 three import permits of 5,400 metric tons (MT) of the staple while these cargo ships were sailing to Cebu City and Davao City.
Aquino is pushing for government-to-government (G-to-G) importation of one million metric tons of rice to prepare for the supposed rice supply shortage the NFA foresees in the coming months.
Mr. So said he learned in his March 7 Vietnam visits that the Philippine government plans to import 3 Million MT from that country in the next two years.
3 million MT if multiplied to 20 equals to 60 million cavans of 50 a kilo bag of rice.
“Bakit inspite na nangyari me bagong statement na naman ang Vietnam na ang gusto pala ng Pilipinas for two years is three million metric tons or sixty million cavans na bigas. Nawala na ang 35% tariff pag pasok nito alam natin ang NFA rice, pero walang NFA price. Ang nangyari napupunta sa traders iyon,” So, a licensed engineer, cited.
500 thousand MT alone or 10 million sacks of imported rice, according to So, could plummet the price of palay from P18 to P12 a kilo – a kick on the groins of the farmers.
He assailed Aquino’s preference for the NFA to import rice as out-of-sync from the staple powerhouses Vietnam and Thailand through the “Government-to-Government (G to G)” transaction.
The SINAG’s boss opined that the G-to-G is useless. First, the government borrowed monies from government banks like Land Bank and pay the principal and interest; Second, the monies collected from importers through tariff would dwindle the stocks of the coffers that could discriminate agricultural projects like buildings of irrigation canals.
G to G requires the government to get a loan from the Land Bank of the Philippines. With the amount Aquino had wanted to import, the loan from Land Bank would amount to a staggering P24 billion, aggravating the P211 billion "legacy debt" the government owed the LBP.
Meanwhile, P5 billion was allotted for the government this year to buy palay from local farmers.
“Ang tariff ng 3 million MT about P18 billion sana. Paano iyong makukulekta P18 billion kung binigay natin sa irrigators iyan? Malaking bagay sa repair ng irrigation kung private sector ang nakapasok niyan”.
According to the Foundation for Economic Freedom (FEF), G to G transaction is subject to corruption committed by those malefactors at the NFA and the government.
The FEF said if the NFA will go on a government-to-government purchased of rice, then there will be no transparent and competitive bidding, which could lead to rampant graft and overprice.
FEF, whose members Include former and present cabinet secretaries and undersecretaries, leading figures in the academe and prominent members in the business and finance community, noted that the Philippines should instead rely on the international trade to guarantee the country’s food security just as Malaysia and Singapore have done.
Mr. So said that before the March 10 importation’s approval of Aquino that dogged him now, he and the NFA allowed the importation of 4000 MT of rice.
He wished Aquino used that amount to buy the palay harvest of farmers last year when they were selling it for P15 to P16 a kilo only.
The NFA targets to buy 4.61 million bags of palay this year at P17 a kilo.
So said Aquino’s Government-to-Government transaction is tainted with corruption and anomaly,
“Yah, kaya sinasabi ko iyong both na lumalabas na pera na iyan. Ang masama lang dito ang G to G walang papasok sa government hindi babayad ng taripa at least iyong isa. Kung may kumikita man may papasok sa government na 35 percent na taripa,” he concluded my interview at Sonshine Radio.
(You can read my selected columns at http://mortzortigoza.blogspot.com and articles at Pangasinan News Aro. You can send comments too at email@example.com)