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Gatchalian reiterates call for abolition of ‘inefficient’ NFA

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian reiterated Thursday his call for the abolition of the National Food Authority (NFA) to spare taxpayers from the burden of subsidizing the "inefficient and unproductive" operations of the embattled agency.

Gatchalian, chairperson of the Senate committee on economic affairs, said there is a problem with rice supply and price because the NFA failed to do its mandate.

He said the NFA has become "a liability to the government" after its revenue continues to drop every year.

He said financial data shows that NFA’s revenue shrank 38 percent to  ?17.93 billion in 2017, from ?29.3 billion in 2016.

He added NFA’s losses, on the other hand, swelled to ?150 billion.

Gatchalian said the Bureau of Treasury reported that the NFA was the biggest recipient of subsidies provided to government owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs) in June 2018.

Record shows that the treasury department allocated ?5.2 billion of the total ?9.72 GOCC subsidy released that month for NFA’s food security program.

The Commission on Audit (COA), however, has called out NFA for using GOCC subsidy funds to settle outstanding debts.

The subsidy funds were intended “specifically to stabilize the price and supply of rice and corn.”

Gatchalian said taxpayers continue to shoulder the losses that NFA incurred despite its consistent failure to fulfill its mandate to stabilize the market price of rice.

"It's time to abolish this unproductive agency and put taxpayers’ money to better use," he said.

He expressed support on the recommendation of the country’s economic managers to let market forces determine rice prices instead, which he believes will make the country's foremost staple food more affordable for all.

The senator also reiterated his call for the passage of his Senate Bill No. 1839, which aims to replace quantitative restrictions on rice with a reasonable tariff to make the country’s rice producing provinces more competitive.

The measure would also give the President elbow room to adjust tariff rates on imported rice, to regulate rice exports, and to impose special rice safeguards to ensure food security for Filipinos. 

In response, the NFA said it will continue to focus on fulfilling its mandate of food security, and leave the decision to legislators.

"Kami po sa NFA, hindi namin po pababayaan 'yung mandate sa food security," NFA Spokesperson Rex Estoperez said in an interview on GMA News TV's "Balitanghali."

"Ngayon, kung ang gusto po ng ating mga legislators, kung sino man ang decision makers, to abolish NFA, sa kanila po 'yun. Ang importante sa amin, ang amin pong kababayan lalo na 'yung mga magsasaka at mga consumers," he added. — Amita Legaspi and Jon Viktor D. Cabuenas/RSJ, GMA News