Rice import auctions to feature safeguards against collusion

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The National Food Authority Council is planning to conduct an auction for rice imports. -- BW FILE PHOTO

THE National Food Authority Council is planning to conduct an auction for rice imports in cooperation with the Bureau of the Treasury (BTr), a Department of Agriculture (DA) official said.

Outgoing Agriculture Undersectary for Administration, Agribusiness and Marketing, and Regional Engagement Bernadette R. Puyat said she wants to tap the BTr for the auction process to head off any suspicion of collusion.

“We’ve been meeting with the Bureau of Treasury, because if you do the open auction with DA personnel, people will think that it’s been fixed. But you can’t do that with the Bureau of Treasury,” she added.

The NFA Council will be meeting today to discuss the parameters and the target date for the auction, which covers the import of 850,200 metric tons of rice.

Ms. Puyat, who oversees rice imports for the DA, also said that pre-qualification for the auction will also be supervised by an interagency council so that “there’s transparency, no collusion.”

“I’m not saying that the NFA’s corrupt but what I want is for the public to have trust and to do it with the Bureau of Treasury,” she said. The process will be open to the media, she added.

“We’re still fixing the parameters. We’ll be talking about it [today] because that’s what the President wants.”

Ms. Puyat, who was named successor to Tourism Secretary Wanda T. Teo late Tuesday, said that she will still be working on the auction until she changes departments.

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said that he will assign Undersecretary for Policy and Planning Segfredo R. Serrano to take up Ms. Puyat’s NFA duties once she transfers to the Department of Tourism. — Anna Gabriela A. Mogato