PRRD to scout for new NFA chief

MANILA President Rodrigo Duterte said Tuesday that National Food Authority (NFA) Administrator Jason Aquino has requested to be relieved from his post amid the country's rice woes.

Jason Aquino has requested that he be relieved already, Duterte said in a televised interview with Chief Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo on state-run PTV 4.

He said he is tired and he cannot cope with the laro diyan sa (game) inside, because we cannot be in agreement all the time, he said.

Duterte said he will soon look for Aquino's replacement.

I will scout for a new one," he said.

Amid calls for the resignation of Aquino, Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Emmanuel Manny PiAol and other officials, Duterte earlier said the solution to the country's rice problems does not necessarily involve firing people.

You know, all officials including me, are bound by laws on the matter. Rice, whatever it is, there are laws to be followed. Maybe the laws are weak or unenforceable. All we have to do is to improve on those laws, not necessarily fire people, he said.

Duterte, meanwhile, said he believes the rice shortage is caused by man-made manipulation, such as hoarding.

The shortage is caused by man-made manipulation. Sabihin mo nawala ang bigas, kung tingnan mo (You say the rice is missing, when you look), it's in the warehouses, he said.

Duterte previously warned rice hoarders not to test his patience, saying he would not hesitate to exercise his emergency powers and ask police to raid warehouses.

The President also bared that he is considering setting up barter trade with Sabah as an option to augment the country's rice supply.

I'll just set up the barter trade again, depending on papayag ang the finance people (if the finance people will agree), Duterte said.

Shortages are always there. The economic life of the country cannot be all beds of roses. Wala namang hinto yung importation natin (Our importation is continuous) but if worse comes to worst, I will open Sabah, he added.

Duterte said he is also considering recommending the abolition of the NFA Council, the NFA's policy-making body.

I may recommend to Congress the abolition of the NFA Council. It has not done any purpose and it only hinders the operation, he said.

He also said he hopes lawmakers would approve the proposed rice tariffication bill to liberalize rice importation.

Ang gusto ko, sabi ko yung tariffication. Alisin na lang yan (I want, what I said tariffication. Just remove that). Free for all, anybody can import, he said.

Rice importation currently is covered by a quantitative restriction, which allows importers to purchase rice from overseas based on their license. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency

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