MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte wants the National Food Authority (NFA) transferred under the Office of the President, Malacañang announced on Friday, April 6.
"The President expressed his intent to place the National Food Authority under the Office of the President," said Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque in a statement.
The NFA is currently under the supervision of Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr, through Duterte's very first executive order.
Duterte also wants Agriculture Undersecretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat to be in charge of rice importation.
"The President is considering the approval of rice importation to be centralized under the Office of the DA Undersecretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat, subject to the review of the Office of the Executive Secretary," said Roque.
Rice importation had been the purview of the NFA, supervised by the NFA Council. The council is headed by Evasco, while NFA management is led by Administrator Jason Aquino.
It's not clear, under Duterte's new arrangement, what kind of involvement Evasco and Aquino would have in deciding on rice importation matters.
However, sources had told Rappler that Duterte, on Thursday night, expressed an intent to "abolish" the NFA Council and to transfer the NFA and National Irrigation Administration back to the Department of Agriculture.
Abolishing the NFA Council would be a big blow to Evasco who exercises supervisory powers over NFA management through the council.
The President's remarks come amid a tug-of-war between Evasco and Aquino, who are at odds on modes of rice importation.
Duterte, in his Thursday meeting with rice traders, also ordered Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade to "relieve all Land Transportation Office officials and personnel assigned in the truck weighing station in Aritao, Nueva Ecija."
This, after receiving complaints by truck owners that they were being extorted "millions of pesos every month" by the office. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.