NFA chief quits over 'failing health'

MANILA, Phiippines (UPDATED) – National Food Authority (NFA) Administrator Arthur Juan has  tendered his irrevocable resignation on Thursday, September 25, citing his "failing health."

Francis Pangilinan, Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization, made the announcement on Friday, September 26.

"It is with regret and sadness that we received yesterday afternoon the irrevocable resignation of Mr Art Juan as National Food Authority Administrator. He cited failing health as the reason for his stepping down," Pangilinan said in a statement.

Juan has served as NFA chief for only 3 months.

Pangilinan said in another statement that he informed President Benigno Aquino III of Juan's resignation early Friday morning "and he replied that we will meet as soon as possible to discuss and decide on the next steps."

Juan and his assistant, lawyer Patricia Galang, had tendered their courtesy resignation on August 15, over extortion allegations made by  rice trader Jomerito “Jojo” Soliman. Pangilinan rejected it, believing in their innocence.

Soliman alleged that the two had tried to extort P15 million ($337,000) from him in exchange for dropping charges against the businessman and reopening his warehouse which was raided by authorities led by Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II in July for alleged hoarding.

On Friday, Pangilinan reiterated his belief that Juan is innocent of the charges, saying, "I continue to believe he is innocent of the charges brought against him."

Pangilinan  added, "This is a temporary setback in our reform efforts and it will not stop of from pursuing sweeping reforms in the NFA and the rice trade in the country."

Juan's resignation comes over a week after an unnamed National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agent leaked to the media that the bureau had recommended the filing of graft charges against Juan and Galang. Both have maintained their innocence.

On September 23, the Juan's lawyers criticized  the NBI for the premature leakage of an NBI report.  –