PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the removal of Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr. as chairman of the National Food Authority (NFA) Council after the NFA has been returned to the Department of Agriculture (DA).
“Because the NFA is under the Department of Agriculture anew, Cabinet Secretary Leoncio V. Evasco will no longer be part of the NFA council,” Palace Spokesman Harry Roque announced in a press briefing in Boracay on Tuesday.
Roque said no one has been named to replace Evasco whose exit from the NFA Council came after allegedly false reports of a “rice shortage” jacked up the price of the staple and caused a panic among consumers.
In a separate statement, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol, said he would replace Evasco in the Council, saying: “It follows since NFA is now under the DA.”
Piñol was present during the meeting in Malacanang on Monday night.
The NFA, together with other agencies, then under the DA, were transferred to the Office of the President during the Aquino administration through Executive Order 165.
Reacting to Duterte’s decision, Evasco, in a statement read by Roque during Tuesday’s briefing, said: “I have full respect with the decision of the President given the encompassing nature and impact of the National Food Authority on the Filipino People and the Farmers.”
Evasco reiterated that he was not removed from his post because of lack of trust from Duterte.
“I can never break the trust given to me by our President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, especially when he appointed me to the position I am in now, a position I did not ask for but wholeheartedly accepted in order to help [the]President govern our country to make government responsive to the needs of our people,” Evasco said.
“I can never break the good relationship I have with the President, a relationship we have built through the years with the people we work and serve with I can never put my family in a position of compromise after all the support, sacrifice and love they have given to me as I continue to serve this government and the people,” Evasco added.
Evasco also called on the next council chairman to continue the systems transformation the council started under his watch.
“With the President’s decision to transfer the governance to the next council Chair, I believe that NFA can now move forward towards ensuring that corrupt, exclusive and debt-ridden practices during the past administrations will not reign in the next transactions to pass,” Evasco said.
“At this critical juncture, today is the best time for NFA to move towards being a true partner of the farmer in delivering better quality services, a true partner of the Filipino poor consumers in providing affordable and quality rice to the public and a true partner of the nation in ensuring food security for rice especially during the periods of calamities and disasters,” Evasco said. RALPH EDWIN U. VILLANUEVA, EIREENE JAIREE GOMEZ