THE National Food Authority (NFA) said that it is preparing for an open tender to select suppliers for a pre-approved shipment of 250,000 metric tons (MT) of rice, which will help replenish its buffer stock.

In a statement, NFA Administrator Jason Laureano Y. Aquino was quoted as saying that the NFA Council, which exercises oversight over the agency, expressed a preference for an open tender even though it may take 45-50 days, longer than the 30 days under a government-to-government arrangement.

Mr. Aquino said the council believes open tender reduces opportunities for corruption.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte authorized the shipment in a meeting with the council on March 19.

According to the statement, Mr. Duterte prefers to take his chances with an oversupply of rice rather than a shortage.

The shipment is expected to arrive by late April or early May.

Mr. Aquino defended the government-to-government procurement method, calling the process “transparent” since it was equivalent to an open tender with supplier countries as the participants.

The corruption allegations are “unfair to those countries with Rice Trade Agreements with the Philippines because it is tantamount to accusing them of participation or connivance in an illegal act,” he added.

“There is competition in G-to-G,” he added. “There is no such thing as a negotiated contract as claimed by some individuals.”

The Philippines has Rice Trade Agreements with Vietnam and Thailand.

The open tender scheme is open to any qualified supplier, though the main risk is delay should potential suppliers be found noncompliant. — Anna Gabriela A. Mogato