Cynthia Villar hits NFA: 'They have not proven to take care for rice farmers, consumers'

Sen. Cynthia Villar criticized the National Food Authority (NFA), which according to her, has not proven itself in terms of looking after rice farmers and consumers' welfare.

Villar made the statement after President Marcos said he would certify as urgent the bill proposing to amend the five-year-old Rice Tariffication Law (RTL).

House Speaker Martin Romualdez and several other House members have proposed amending the RTL to restore the NFA's role in selling rice directly to public markets. Under the current law, the NFA’s mandate is limited to ensuring buffer stocks for disasters.

However, Villar recalled how she, together with other senators were buying rice from the NFA to give to calamity victims in Mindanao and they were told that NFA has no stock only to find out that they sold the rice stocks to traders.

She said that NFA plays a vital role in ensuring food security and stability in the country by managing the supply and distribution of rice.

"It should focus on the acquisition, maintenance, and distribution of rice for buffer stocking sourced from local farmers and for calamity assistance. NFA has a yearly budget of P9 billion to do their local procurement," Villar said.

The senator also recalled a report on irregular sale of NFA Stocks to Selected Commercial Traders namely G4 Rice Mill Corp., and NBK San Pedro Ricemill.

"They pass this sold palay as deteriorating or aging stocks, and without undergoing a bidding process after purchasing the grains in palay form at P23 per kilo and sold as milled rice for Php 25 per kilo. The government was said to have incurred a P12,500,000.00 loss because of this," she said.

It was on March 4 when a total of 139 NFA officials were suspended pursuant to an order issued by the Office of the Ombudsman.

Meanwhile, the senator also called for the urgent passage of the Anti-Agricultural Economic Sabotage Law to control the middlemen and traders. She highlighted how the Senate passed Senate Bill No. 2432 or the Anti-Agricultural Economic Sabotage Act, in December 2023, and has been certified as urgent by the President.  

"The Senate version states that there shall be severe sanctions on the nefarious acts of smuggling, hoarding, profiteering, and cartel of agricultural and fishery products as a self-preservation measure against the manipulative scheme of economic saboteurs, protect the livelihood of farmers, and plug leakages in tax and duty collection," she said.

She added that the bill likewise protects the State from tax evaders and non-payors of duties, and ensures the well-being of our agricultural producers and welfare of the consumers, and the economy as a whole.

Meanwhile, she said that the Rice Tariffication Law or RA No. 11203 provides that tariffs collected from imported rice shall go to the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF).

She explained that collections in excess of the P10 billion fund go to the Rice Farmer Financial Assistance or RFFA (RA No. 11598), to rice farmers tilling 2 hectares and below and registered in the RSBSA.

"I have filed Senate Bill No. 2601 or “An Act Liberalizing the Importation, Exportation and Trading of Rice, Lifting for the Purpose the Quantitative Import Restriction on Rice and for other purposes.”" she added.

Villar said that a Congressional Oversight Committee on Agricultural and Fisheries Modernization (COCAFM) Meeting of both houses has been set on May 14 in the Senate.