PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte will fire officials of the National Food Authority (NFA) found to be involved in anomalies, amid an ongoing investigation into the rice shortage, Malacañang said on Wednesday.
“If the President learns of anomalies, no matter how close you are to him, you will be fired. In fact, no one, not even the President’s closest allies, would be spared. For me, if you really want to serve in the government, do what is right and don’t underestimate the President,” Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said in a radio interview.
Roque said NFA officials should quit government if they were having difficulty doing their jobs.
“Everything reaches him (the President) and undergoes study…Don’t wait for me to announce that you’re the next to be axed,” Roque said.
In February, the NFA announced it only had two days worth of buffer stock, which sparked panic among consumers and triggered a spike in rice prices.
The NFA is required to maintain a buffer stock of at least 15 days of consumption at any given time.
In a Senate inquiry on Tuesday, an official of the National Economic and Development Authority said the NFA’s announcement of declining buffer stocks triggered the spike in prices.
NFA Administrator Jason Aquino told senators the grains agency decreased its distribution in the market and prioritized calamity-prone areas, poor regions and relief agencies.
Given the low supply of NFA rice, the price of commercial rice increased by P3 to P5 per kilo in some areas.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol told the inquiry the reported shortage in NFA stocks was used “to justify the increase in the price of rice in the market” and the “additional importation of rice.”