PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte will fire officials of the National Food Authority (NFA) who will be found to be involved in anomalies amid an ongoing investigation into the alleged “rice shortage,” Malacanang said on Wednesday.
“‘Pag nalaman ni Presidente na merong kababalaghan, kahit gaano ka kalapit, sibak ka. In fact, ang katunayan wala pong nasisibak na hindi malapit kay Presidente ano. So ang sa akin lang po, kung talagang gusto n’yo pang manilbihan sa gobyerno, gawin po ang tama at ang Presidente wag n’yo pong i-underestimate (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 said on radio.
Roque said that NFA officials should quit government service if they were having difficulty fulfilling their mandate.
“Lahat po iyan nakakarating sa kanya, lahat po iyan pinag-aaralan… ‘Wag n’yo na pong antayin na ma-anunsyo ko na kayong susunod na sisibakin (Everything reaches him and undergoes study… Don’t wait for me to announce that you’re the next to be axed),” he said.
In February, 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.
At the Senate hearing on Tuesday, NFA Administrator Jason Aquino said it decreased its distribution in the market and prioritized distributing stocks in calamity-prone areas, highly-depressed regions and relief agencies.
Given the low supply of NFA rice, the price of commercial rice increased from P3 to P5 per kilo in some areas.
But Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said the reported shortage in NFA stocks was being used “to justify the increase in the price of rice in the market” and the “additional importation of rice.” CATHERINE S. VALENTE