Makabayan bloc backs P10 billion extra NFA budget for use in rice procurement only

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THE MAKABAYAN bloc of legislators on Wednesday filed a resolution backing a P10-billion supplemental budget for the National Food Authority (NFA) for domestic rice procurement between September and January.

House Joint Resolution 28, hopes to ease the rice crisis by directing the NFA to acquire at least 500,000 metric tons (MTs) of rice from local farmers at P20 per kilogram.

According to the resolution, the NFA’s preference to service its debt hindered it from fulfilling its mission to buy rice from farmers, thereby creating “a need to provide the agency a supplemental budget so it can resume procuring palay from local production in order to (ease) the shortage of NFA rice.”

The Makabayan bloc, a coalition of party list representatives, noted that NFA’s reliance on rice imports hindered it from meeting its procurement target.

“In 2017, with its reliance on importation, it only procured 28,344 metric tons of palay out of a target of 153,483 metric tons,” according to the resolution.

The NFA, without approval of the NFA Council, used its P5.1 billion Food Security budget under the General Appropriations Act (GAA) of 2017, to pay down maturing loans, according to the resolution.

In 2018, the agency also used much of its budget for Buffer Stocking on debt service.

“It again used P6.1 billion of its P7 billion allocated in the 2018 GAA for Buffer Stocking Program to pay for its maturing loans,” the Makabayan bloc said. This resulted to the procurement of only 334 MT of rice in January 2018.

The bloc’s legislators proposed to direct the NFA to exclusively utilize the proposed additional P10-billion in funding on procurement. — Charmaine A. Tadalan