Party-list Rep. Cecil Chavez of Butil sought for a revamp of the National Food Authority Council (NFAC), the policy-making body of the National Food Authority (NFA), and proposed the inclusion of Agriculture Secretary Manuel F. Piñol and his key people in the critical policy-making body.
“The glaring, hard-to-fathom noninclusion of Secretary Piñol and his key people in the council is akin to excluding the Philippine National Police director general from the top-level efforts to find the best policy on exterminating drugs and crime,” Chavez said.
In fact, she added, the agriculture secretary and his people, “are the best people to guide the NFA Council into making the right and the most strategic decisions on when to import, on what volume to import and where to import.”
The NFAC recently approved the importation of 250,000 metric tons of rice, amid findings that there is no actual rice shortage and private traders have been manipulating the country’s rice supply for their own private gains .
Chavez said the best agricultural economists and the best agricultural statisticians are with the Department of Agriculture and that the DA is the ultimate source of data on rice production and supply.
“The DA, which is in charge of the production side, is the agency perfectly situated to provide the data on the supply side, and those are the specific data that the NFA Council needs,” she added.
Chavez said that, historically, from the time of the agriculture department in the commonwealth period to the time of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the DA had been on top of the NFAC, and the council used to be dependent on DA data and inputs on rice importation.
During the term of President Benigno S. Aquino III, the DA was “balkanized” to give way to two cosecretaries, and four agencies, including the NFA were placed under one of the secretaries. The NFA has yet to be returned to its mother agency, the DA.
According to Chavez, nine or half of the membership of the 18-member council should go to Piñol and his key staff.
To guarantee efficient policy-making and decisions based on evidence and empirics, “that should be the perfect set up of the NFA council,” she said.