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Acting NFA chief suspended amid rice trade controversy

Acting NFA chief also gets suspended over rice deal

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – The Ombudsman suspended two other National Food Authority (NFA) officials during an investigation into the suspected illegal sale of government rice buffer supplies.

In a statement on Monday, the Department of Agriculture (DA) confirmed that recently appointed NFA officer in charge (OIC) Piolito Santos and Jonathan Yazon, acting department manager for operation and coordination, were also placed under preventive suspension in connection with the controversy.

Following their suspension, Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. will again sit as NFA administrator, while DA Director Larry Lacson will be the officer in charge as deputy administrator.

“We want to stabilize the situation at the NFA following the events of last week,” Tiu Laurel said. 

“We want to help NFA employees during these challenging times to continue to provide uninterrupted service, especially during this harvest season.”

To investigate the allegedly unusual rice trade, the Ombudsman suspended NFA Administrator Roderico Bioco and 138 other officials and employees for six months on March 4.

After an emergency meeting, Santos became NFA OIC, replacing Bioco.

The Rice Tariffication Act requires the NFA to buy only from local farmers to build a 300,000-ton rice buffer stock.

Rice is provided during catastrophes or disasters, although the food agency can dispose of aged inventories without these conditions.

However, NFA Assistant Administrator for Operations Lemuel Pagayunan claimed in a February 12 letter-complaint to the Office of the President that Bioco and other officials sold 75,000 bags of rice worth P93.75 million to G4 Rice Mill San Miguel Corp. and NBK San Pedro Rice Mill—both private traders.

Pagayunan said the officials authorized the sale without the approval of the NFA Council, adding that the transaction did not undergo public bidding.


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