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Empowering NFA better solution than abolishing it

/ 10:22 PM April 30, 2013

Greetings in the name of “daang tuwid”!

This has reference to the article titled “Undermining self-sufficiency; Agri exec hits Neda, DBM over rice policy” (Page A3, Inquirer, 3/2/13).

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According to the report, an official of the Department of Agriculture (DA) decried the proposal to abolish the National Food Authority (NFA) and scrap the quantitative restriction (QR) on rice imports. The article further reported that the official also assailed government agencies, including the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda), for undermining the government’s rice self-sufficiency program.

Agriculture Assistant Secretary Dante de Lima, the national coordinator of the DA’s “Agri-Pinoy Rice Program,” alleged that the Neda and the Department of Budget and Management had been lobbying for the abolition of the NFA and the lifting of restrictions on rice imports.

“They have no heart…. What they are doing is political suicide,” De Lima said, referring to the moves taken by the agencies to remove the so-called QR on cheap imported rice. Removing the QR, he said, would result in cheap rice from Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia flooding the local markets and driving Filipino farmers out of business.

The report, which sounds quite alarming, is unrealistic. The problem is mostly excessive importation and rampant smuggling of rice, both of which obviously deprive our small local farmers of their livelihood. There is no need to abolish the NFA. The solution is to unmask and penalize the unscrupulous individuals behind all these anomalies. A problem cannot be solved by adding another problem.

If the NFA will be abolished, what’s next? Unemployment? Smuggling?  Importations?  Temporary QRs will never stop imported rice from flooding the markets.  There are better alternatives.

Why not pass a bill or a law empowering the NFA to monitor actual rice harvest of local farmers and inspect rice millers’ stocks for accurate statistics. Purportedly verified agricultural statistics were used to justify past rice importations, which eventually made smuggling easier.

If we really want to, we can find a solution, unless we prioritize personal and vested interests, in which case Juan de la Cruz will remain oppressed and neglected.

With due respect, we humbly appeal to every responsible government agency to look into this fragile situation with caution. This must be resolved properly. Rest assured, we will work with them accordingly.

—CHARLES T. LIM,

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president,

Philippine Chamber of Commerce & Industry,

Southern Isabela Chapter,

08 Guzman St., PSCC Bldg.,

Calao West, Santiago City,

Isabela, 3311

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TAGS: letters, NFA, quantitative restrictions, Rice imports
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